Local farmer seeks to educate

FAIRMONT — It’s no secret that Wanda Patsche is passionate about Ag. She and her husband farm in the Welcome area and she’s also on the MN Pork Board, is involved with the “From the Ground Up” dinner, and has her own blog.

In addition to those, Patsche recently took a Regional Ag Literacy Specialist position through the Minneota Ag in the Classroom Foundation.

“My biggest passion is consumer outreach,” Patsche said.

Minnesota Ag in the Classroom Foundation (MAITC) funds three regional Ag Literacy Specialists and also funds free ag literacy resources to schools and teachers. The MAITC Foundation is funded primarily by ag commodity groups and businesses.

“They help fund the program because they see value in this,” Patsche explained.

Patsche officially started on October 1, and though she’s been pretty busy with wrapping up the harvest season, she looks forward to soon starting to contact area administrators.

“I want to be a resource for teachers and schools,” Patsche said.

By being a resource, Patsche will be able to provide lesson plans, supplies, connections between schools and community ag resources, ag-based field trips and school speakers, all at no cost and with no commitment needed from teachers or the school.

“The hope is that teachers will see the value in Ag,” Patsche explained.

There are ag lessons in all areas, including science, history, math, etc. The curriculum matrix can be accessed online and there are over 400 quality ag lessons for all age levels incorporating Minnesota Academic Standards.

“As farmers and people in the community, a basic ag education is needed to understand our food and how it’s grown,” Pastche said.

As Patsche pointed out, a good place to start teaching this foundation is with children.

Patsche was able to provide an example of a lesson plan for young children called Source Search. It involves a relay game where kids are asked to identify the original source of common food, clothing and other items. The options for sources are farm, factory, store or natural resources. Patsche said that often times, kids will put the majority of of the items in the source bin labeled “store,” but once a group discussion occurs, they realize that almost everything has its source from the crops or livestock grown and raised on farms. Patsche said it’s important for kids to make that connection.

“Not only is the Ag literacy part important,” Patsche said, “but it’s also important to open up teachers and students to job possibilities.”

Patsche went on to say that there are a lot of different Ag related jobs that need to be filled, and many people are unfamiliar with what’s all out there.

The big goal is to raise enough funds to have more Ag literacy specialists in order to reach more school and students. Patsche reported that in Illinois, they have a specialist in every county, whereas the whole state of Minnesota only has three.

Patsche is eager to help and is willing to work with those who reach out to her.

“I want to be a resource. These lessons are hands-on, interactive and fun,” Patsche said. “This is exciting because it’s new and I’m eager to see where it goes.”