October 26, 2021

Making ag elementary

Virgil pupils take part in agriculture literacy event

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland County Legislator Sandy Price calls on Dedrea Scalza’s second-graders Wednesday at Virgil Elementary School. Price was reading to them as part of Agriculture Literacy Week.

VIRGIL — Second-grader Tegan MacDowell made his classmates laugh Wednesday morning, clucking like the chickens on his family’s farm, birds he calls the “Chicken Squad” because of how fierce they are when they warn of dangers like coyotes.

He and some others among his 15 classmates at Virgil Elementary School shared their knowledge of agriculture with Cortland County Legislator Sandy Price, who was reading to them for Agriculture Literacy Week, part of an Ag in-the-Classroom partnership between Cornell University, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state Education Department, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York Farm Bureau.

Price read “Before We Eat: From Farm to Table,” which describes the many processes, from planting, to growing to shipping products, that go into the production of food.

Judging by the feedback from the students, they already had a good idea of how it all works. Some described the tankers coming to their farms daily to collect the milk. Many told Price they help to feed the animals on their farms: chickens get corn, pigs get slop, cows and horses get hay.

Riley Salino explained how the horses her family has get along with each other and the donkey.

Remington Stull, wearing a pink shirt with a picture of a horse on it, said she shows horses, even winning competitions against adults.

Daniel Murray knew of the hardships of farm life, telling how some of his family’s goats were killed by a donkey.

Heather Birdsall, senior resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, said this is the 11th year her agency took part in the week of events.

Volunteers come into classrooms to read agriculture-themed books that are then donated to the schools. Price, a Virgil native, has been volunteering to read for the week at Virgil for years. She grew up on a farm, and her husband, former Cortland County Sheriff Lee Price, operated a farm while he was sheriff. Two of her grandchildren were in the class Wednesday and other students knew her as well.

Volunteers also read in Homer on Wednesday and will read in Marathon, Randall and Parker elementary schools as well as the library in McGraw and Cincinnatus schools throughout the week and into next week.

The agriculture literacy week is to foster an awareness and appreciation of how food and fiber is produced, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County website.

Birdsall, who read Wednesday in Homer, said she explained how the food production process works in Cortland County by breaking down the different players in yogurt production.

Local dairy farmers ship milk to Byrne Hollow factory on Route 13 in Cortlandville. Workers there make the yogurt, she said, then ship it to local stores for sale.

“It’s all about educating that next generation that you don’t just get your food from the grocery store, and being this is national Ag week, this is perfect to do it during this week to teach about agriculture,” Birdsall said.