Saturday, March 14, 2015

Agriculture Literacy Week Begins Monday

By Debra J. Groom
Watertown Daily Times
The book for this year's Ag Literacy Week

The beautiful story of a young girl caring for her animals and then using their fleece to make a tapestry will be read to second-graders throughout the north country during Agriculture Literacy Week, March 16 through 20.

The featured book this year is called “Weaving the Rainbow,” by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Stephanie Anderson.

Now in its 10th year, Ag Literacy Week is sponsored by the New York Ag in the Classroom program. During Ag Literacy Week, volunteer readers go into second-grade classrooms and read that year’s chosen book about a certain aspect of farming.

The elementary schools are given copies of the book and teachers and the readers discuss the book with the students.

Volunteers who go into the classrooms to read the book usually are somehow connected with agriculture — such as dairy princesses, master gardeners, farmers, Cooperative Extension agents, etc. But anyone can volunteer to read.

Ag Literacy Week Coordinators in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties still are seeking more readers to help out in local schools.

St. Lawrence County coordinator Betsy Hodge said she is being helped by FFA members in the Gouverneur, Canton and Edwards-Knox school districts. “Anyone else who wants to get involved should call or email Bobbi-Jo at our office,” Mrs. Hodge said. The phone number is 379-9192 and the email is

To be a reader in Lewis County, email coordinator Jennifer Karelus at

“My volunteers and I will be reading in all the elementary schools in Lewis County, including Harrisville, Lowville Academy, Beaver River, River Valley Mennonite School, Glenfield Elementary, Port Leyden Elementary and West Leyden Elementary,” Mrs. Karelus said. She also said any teachers who would like to have a reader come to their class should drop her an email. 

In Jefferson County, coordinator Sue Gwise said she has lined up readers and 43 classrooms for Ag Literacy Week. Readers will be visiting Belleville Henderson, Antwerp Elementary in the Indian River school district, General Brown Elementary and Dexter Elementary in the General Brown school district, Lyme, Augustinian Academy in Carthage, Wilson and Mannsville Manor elementaries in South Jefferson, Immaculate Heart Central Elementary in Watertown and Ohio Street, North, Starbuck, Sherman Street and Knickerbocker elementaries in the Watertown city district. Readers from Jefferson County also will visit the Copenhagen school district.

Both Mrs. Hodge and Mrs. Karelus said in addition to having volunteers read the book, they also like to line up others to come to the classes to beef up what the children learn.

For example, the year the Ag Literacy Week book was about honey and beekeeping, a beekeeper visited with her bees, and some readers came dressed in full beekeeper gear. This year, the coordinators hope to have some people who can use a spinning wheel to spin yarn, some fleece recently shorn from a sheep to show to the children and a finished product (a knitted sweater or mittens) so the children can see that the fleece from the sheep was used to make the article of clothing.

Mrs. Hodge said demonstrations like this make it easier for children to learn about what is done on a farm and how farming affects them.

She remembers the year the Ag Literacy Week book was about poultry. She said the children learned about raising chickens and how chickens lay eggs.

“We talked about what eggs are used for,” Mrs. Hodge said. “Then in a moment of a light bulb going off, one little girl said, ‘Then without chickens, we wouldn’t have eggs to make chocolate chip cookies.’ This is the coolest part of this experience.”

When reading “Weaving the Rainbow,” children will learn all the steps to making a woolen or woven item, from shearing, carding, spinning and dying.

Fiber production is an important part of agriculture in New York state, although not a huge part of the industry. A few thousand farms in the state raise goats, sheep, alpacas, llamas and rabbits and take the fleece or hair from those animals to make fiber and, eventually, clothing or woven items.

Some of the previous topics covered by books during Ag Literacy Week are poultry; maple sugaring; nutrition and knowing your farmer; vegetable and fruit growing; apples; tree growing; bees and honey; and dairy and making cheese.

For more information, go to

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