2017 Summer Agriculture Institute
Another successful week is coming to a close for the Summer Ag Institute. Every year, the University of Arizona Maricopa County Extension Office, along with other representative organizations including the Arizona Beef Council, plan a weeklong agriculture tour for kindergarten to high school level teachers from all over Arizona. Teachers fill out applications, and thirty are selected each year as participants of the tour to learn about the Arizona agriculture community surrounding them. This knowledge is then passed on to students within their classrooms.
This year, teachers experienced a variety of agriculture community aspects including the Arabian horse wonder known as Los Cedros USA, the University of Arizona Maricopa Agriculture Center and its research, various crop farms, and livestock ranches. They ended the week by splitting into small groups and spending a few hours enjoying a genuine, hands-on experience of everyday farm life with local farm families, followed by an intensive workshop on incorporating what they have learned about agriculture into their curriculum.W Dart Ranch where they learned about raising cattle and how ranching intertwines with the economy and environment. Andy Groseta explained to teachers, “We are the only nation on the face of the earth where you can go to any store on a Monday and ask for any food you want in any quantity and get it by Friday. The only thing stopping you is your pocketbook. We are very efficient at what we do, and that was not an overnight thing; it started in 1776.” As he discussed ranch activities, his fifth-generation family ranch tradition, and his love for the land and his cattle, teachers gained insight on this piece of the beef community. Tracey Dodrill from Cocopah Middle School told us this stop was her favorite, “I loved meeting the Groseta family and learning that ranchers are people just like me. I want to be adopted into their family!” The ranch was a great transition into a delicious meal at Roux 66 and a discussion with the Diablo Trust which further highlighted the beef community’s dedication as environmentalists to raise healthy beef while taking proper care of livestock and the environment while involving consumers. Perkinsville Meat Processing, followed by Thursday’s tour of Heiden Land & Cattle and Triple G Dairy. At Heiden Land & Cattle, Paul Heiden took the teachers on the next step in the beef raising journey by giving a tour of his feedlot. He explained how they raised Holstein steers with a carefully calculated diet, and answered questions about cattle feed, the beef product, and animal welfare practices including Beef Quality Assurance procedures. “We care a lot about our cattle and what they are eating, and consult a nutritionist frequently. We don’t do what we do just for regulation; we do it for the wellness of our cattle,” Paul shared.
After stopping at the Triple G Dairy, teachers were able to add learning the differences between the Holstein and Jersey breeds, seeing the stages of each cow’s life from calf to milking cow, and witnessing firsthand the dairy’s state of the art technology including a milking carousel, to their list of experiences. One teacher, Suze Manci, commented: “I now understand why producers do what they do. They have a passion for feeding you, and they have to be able to do that.”
Members of the beef community were given the opportunity to showcase their family business, explaining how they raise their animals and add to their unique piece of beef’s gate to plate journey while answering teachers’ questions.
Overall, the 2017 Summer Agriculture Institute allowed teachers to connect again, or for the first time, with the true source of their food, fiber, and fuel. Furthermore, the teachers gained skills on how to incorporate these concepts into their K-12 classrooms so that future generations even further removed from agriculture still understand the gate to plate journey and how everyone is touched by agriculture every day.
“I’m finding a lot of new ways to incorporate what I’ve learned about agriculture into my 7th-grade science unit.”
“I had a meat science minor in college, and it’s great to be able to go back to feedlots and places I have been before.”
“I teach middle school math and have started an agriculture elective in the afternoon to try and start an FFA program early on. It’s the nature of Duncan [Arizona], and I want to go back to that.”
These are just a few of the endless quotes from excited, and, at the end of the week, very tired teachers who enjoyed this year’s agriculture institute, and we are thankful to be involved another year helping ensure the connection between the agriculture community in the field to those in grocery stores and around the table.