Christian-Shelby-Montgomery-Fayette Teacher/Classroom Education Project

University of Illinois Extension-Christian County
All Unit Districts, Public and Private
Teachers: Gary Letterly, Ellen Trainor, Kelli Bassett

Program Highlights:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006:

  • Participants (15) confirmed their registration and completed a pre-program evaluation.
  • Teachers traveled to the Illinois Department of Agriculture – “Watershed Park – Conservation Education Site”. Staff from Extension, IDAg, USDA – Specialist, and Soil and Water District Association presented hands-on activities, walking tour and overview of printed and web-based resources related to natural resource preservation that can be used in the classroom.
  • During a working lunch, IDNR – Education Director shared classroom resource materials ranging from elaborate posters to cd-resource guides.
  • Teachers toured a commercial crop production service and supply facility to view and gain perspective in the amount of input services and supplies used in modern production agriculture. Teachers were taught several basics principles used in utilizing soil amendments and pest control products to produce commodity crops in Illinois. Agribusiness staff shared their knowledge of sustainable agricultural commodity crop production with the group. Key to this tour was the dialogue that helped participants discover how production agriculture is not an industry that exists in a vacuum, as it evolves with public perception of agriculture in relationship to the environment and general economy with different responsibilities within various levels of our society (local market of consumers and producers to a “quasi-governmental responsibility” in the secure production of food and fiber).

Wednesday, June14:

  • Classroom sessions started with an introduction to the Dudley Smith Farm, relevance of research projects funded as Dudley Smith Initiatives, and support information for teachers on the “educational grant program”.
  • “Understanding Sustainable Agriculture” was presented by Dan Anderson – U of I Extension Specialist working with the Agroecology program in the Department Crop Sciences.
  • Ellen Trainor – Agricultural Program Director for the Shelby County Extension Unit shared various resource materials and resource sites for sustainable agriculture curriculum materials. These included classroom kits on agricultural topics, Project Food, Land, and People Curriculum and Activities, resources from Ag in the Classroom, ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Sustainable Agriculture Resources and Programs for K-12 Youth, Environmental Literacy Council modules and lesson plans, and mAgic kit soils as demonstrated by Agriculture Literacy program staff from Christian and Shelby Counties.
  • To strengthen teachers understanding of animal agriculture, Dr. Justin Sexten – U of I Extension Beef Specialist provided “Animal Science 101”.

Thursday, June 15:

  • Teachers traveled to Indian Knoll Farm – owned and operated by Kevin and Penny Bliler (Secretary of the Illinois Beef Association) of rural Mechanicsburg, Illinois. Bliler’s briefed the group on what it takes to remain profitable in an operation that combines animal agriculture and traditional crop production. A walking tour of paddocks revealed that corn-based ethanol co-products, produced nearby, are utilized to enhance the diet of their pastured beef. The family also directly markets meat cuts to local consumers.
  • A tour of the John and Noel Hebert Farm of rural Assumption, Illinois provided the setting for teachers to learn about a unique meat-goat production system that involves three generations of a Christian County farm family. The alternative (to traditional beef production) segment of their farm operation demonstrated the resourcefulness of this family farm by utilizing existing assets and knowledge base to produce marketable agricultural goods. Teachers also learned how a producer can take advantage of agricultural market opportunities by shifting production into more profitable parallel production areas (i.e., hogs to beef to goats) and the challenges associated with this approach.
  • The final location used for TCEP was the U of I – Dudley Smith Farm near Pana, Illinois. Ed Ballard, retired – Extension Animal Systems Educator provided a walking tour of the livestock intensive grazing /row crop project currently underway on the farm. Emily Heaton, U of I post-graduate participant in the energy crops – miscanthus and switchgrass / bio-fuels study provided a question and answer session along with close inspection of the perennial grass plots for teachers while on the farm.
  • A wrap-up session, completed the third day, provided additional teacher/classroom materials and reinforced previously shared resources of the first two days of the program. Certificates of Completion were distributed to each participant upon completion of a program post-evaluation form.

Other Education Grant Report Documentation:

Attachment A: TCEP Pre-program Evaluation for June 13, 2006
Attachment B: TCEP Post Evaluation for June 15, 2006