Northwest Farm Credit has donated $30,000 to support the Agri-Business Council of Oregon’s Adopt a Farmer program, an outreach effort that connects middle school students with working farmers.
Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-Business Council, said this donation will help the rapidly growing Adopt a Farmer program continue to educate students across the state about the importance of agriculture.
During its first year, the Adopt a Farmer program worked with only three middle schools in the Beaverton School District. Now, three years later, it has partnered with 34 different middle schools across the state and is expected to work with 3,600 different students throughout the year.
“That’s 34 different partnerships, and those aren’t just one class and one teacher each,” Horning said.
The Adopt a Farmer program was started to help combat the dwindling amount of money schools have available to fund field trips. The program gives middle school students the opportunity to get out into the work environment of a participating farmer and learn how food goes from the farm to their plate.
“It’s a struggle trying to get them to understand the year round, but at least they get a slice of it,” said Marie Bowers, a farmer at Bashaw Land and Seed who has worked with students and teachers through the program.
Horning and Bowers believe that middle school is an imperative time for students to learn about farming.
“This whole program culminated with the idea of, ‘What is the best way to reach urban citizens to show them where their food comes from?’” Horning said. “FFA and Ag In The Classroom do a phenomenal job, but there was a gap in the middle school years and we wanted to bridge that.”
Horning and Bowers believe that this age is also a good time for students to get interested and ask questions about agriculture.
“A lot of things stick with them, it gives them good perspective of how much it takes and the risk involved in it,” said Bowers
Because of the program’s rapid growth, the donation only scratches the surface of the fundraising that the Agri-Business Council needs to continue to support Adopt a Farmer.
“We are still a very small nonprofit and while we are blessed and excited about these wonderful gifts, in order to facilitate this program we still haven’t raised enough to do it next year,” Horning said. “We’re still looking for support to make this the best program it can be.”