Ag in the Classroom: Keeping the focus on agriculture


Talk about a perfect fit.

When the Ogle and Carroll county Farm Bureaus came together with U of I Extension to create the Ag in the Classroom coordinator position, Melinda Charbonneau was the perfect candidate. She had worked in Extension as a secretary and 4-H Program Coordinator, so she was familiar with Extension and its programs.

“The Ag in the Classroom position was a perfect fit for me,” Charbonneau said. “It combined two things that I love: agriculture and education. My degree is in secondary education, and I grew up on a farm where we raised dairy and beef cows, sheep, and chickens. We also grew crops including corn, soybeans, oats and hay.”

Charbonneau sat down to answer some questions about the Ag in the Classroom program.

Question: Can you explain what the Ag in the Classroom program is?

Answer: “The purpose of Ag in the Classroom is to educate youth where their food and fiber comes from. There are many careers in agriculture and fewer farm kids to fill those roles. We need young people that are excited to go into agriculture fields. Getting youth excited to learn more about agriculture will hopefully make them better consumers. We also need our future government officials to understand the importance of agriculture and the impacts their regulations have on it.”

Q: What types of kids are attracted to the program?

A: “All types of students are interested in Ag in the Classroom. The program offers hands on activities that all youth can get excited about.”

Q: What is the content of the lessons? Is it all agriculture based?

A: “The content of all lessons tie back into agriculture. There are lessons about corn, soybeans, cows, pigs, etc… However, there are other lessons that correlate with standards or curriculum in the school that can be tied back into agriculture. For example, the environmental lessons talk about taking care of the Earth, soil conservation, protecting our water, etc…  These lesson focus on a topic such as water and its importance.  Then the discussion leads to what youth can do to take care of water and the role farmers play in protecting water.

Q: What topics seem to be the most popular with the kids?

A: “The most popular topic with youth is when we are making food. Prior to Covid we would make bread and tootsie rolls. Through these activities students discovered where the ingredients came from, measuring skills, and got to experience the process of making an end product. We are still able to make butter because it is an individual activity as part of the lesson on dairy cows. Students really like making a food product they can enjoy eating.”

Q: How important is a program like this in a  farming area such as Ogle County?

A: “Even though we live in a rural area many students are removed from the farm. The Ag in the Classroom program provides them a connection and better understanding of what they see happening in the farming community around them.”