May 2 through 8 marks Children’s Book Week AND Teacher Appreciation Week . Why not celebrate both with a touch of Agriculture?

Students across Illinois continue to face an emphasis on reading and literature, so linking agriculture would be a natural fit. Several new books are featured on the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom website and I wanted to share some highlight with you here!

As a former History teacher, one of my favorites is Farmer George Plants a Nation  by Peggy Thomas. This is the story of George Washington’s life as farmer, and the impact agriculture had on his life. We have a companion lesson plan guide featuring lessons related to Soil, Trees, Horses, Agricultural Mechanization and Wheat all of which are featured in the book. This book is published by Caulkins Creek–an imprint of Boyds Mills Press–featuring historically accurate information. The book features beautiful oil painting art work, and although the reading level is listed as grades 3-6, it would be an excellent “Coffee Table Book” for audiences of all ages.

Who Grew My Soup by Tom Darbyshire takes a look at how agricultural products become consumer products, specifically soup. Most importantly the book introduces readers to farmers who raise the crops that become soup. It is a great look at healthy, nutritious food and where it comes from. Written at a 3rd grade level, the art and pace appeal to audiences of all levels!

Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace is a chapter book written for 3rd grade. I like this book, especially for ‘reluctant’ young boy readers. This is the story of Eli who is gaining experience raising his first show animal. It is very agriculturally accurate, and addresses the issue of a ‘pet’ versus livestock.

The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts is very similar to Little Joe, but is written for a slightly older (grades 5-7) female audience. As a father of 2 daughters, I like this book with its strong female main character, actively engaging in agriculture. Libby Burns walks in the shadow of her older brother and tries to prove her agricultural skills to her father and grandfather. Her ‘nerdy’ best friend helps her as she struggles with some unique challenges surrounding the county fair. This might be my favorite agriculture book on the market. Michelle Houts is a Junior High teacher in Ohio and also actively engaged in farming with her husband!

The Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is set on a ranch in eastern Oregon. While both Little Joe and Beef Princess have many “Illinois” related topics—the books could be set here–This book describes ranching in Oregon. I like this book because the main character has to face many challenges of agriculture on his own, as his father is shipped off to the middle east with the National Guard. This is an outstanding book for all -especially targeted to grades 5-7.

Some other books worth checking out include: Seed, Soil, Sun by Cris Peterson, Clarabelle by Cris Peterson, The Hungry Planet by Pete Menzel, and Corn Belt Harvest by Ray Bial. Your county agriculture literacy program may have a number of books in a lending library to preview. Check your county program at or for more suggestions check out the Illinois AITC website or on the AFBF Website you can look at their Authentic Agriculture book list and even nominate a candidate for their book of the year!!

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Ag in the Classroom


On June 4, 2010, three high school students, two brothers and a fellow classmate were driving home on their last day of school.  The Illinois country road they were driving on became increasingly narrow.  The narrowest part of the road was at the top of the hill where an oncoming car was approaching.  In an effort to miss the car, the teen driver of the pickup truck swerved and hit a pot hole causing the driver to lose control and hit a tree.

Two of the teens sustained injuries and had to be extricated from the vehicle.  All three of the teens survived this horrific crash because they were wearing their safety belts.  They lived to tell their story because they took the extra few seconds needed to buckle their safety belts. 

Two teens await extrication from their pickup truck after hitting a tree in rural Illinois. The brothers and fellow classmate all survived the crash because they chose to buckle their safety belts. All three teens received Saved By the Safety Belt Awards from the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety.

Unfortunately, not all crashes have a happy ending.  In 2010, more than 900 people were killed on Illinois roadways; many were traveling in rural areas.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 23 percent of the United States population lived in rural areas in 2008 but rural fatalities accounted for 56 percent of all traffic fatalities.  Speed, alcohol impairment and emergency response time may all factor into the increase in fatalities in rural areas, but the leading factor is lower safety belt use in rural areas particularly among pickup truck occupants.  In 2009, 68 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed in traffic crashes were not buckled up.  Women are more likely to buckle up than men, especially young men.  In 2009, 66 percent of men ages 18 to 34killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing their safety belts.

Why are pickup truck drivers choosing to buckle up less than occupants of passenger vehicles?  Many feel pickup trucks are safer than passenger vehicles because they are large in size.  However, trucks have a higher center of gravity which causes them to roll over more frequently than smaller passenger vehicles.  The higher rollover rate combined with the lower use of safety belts is a deadly combination resulting in more ejections in fatal pickup crashes.  Safety belts offer the best protection in a rollover and can reduce the risk of dying by up to 80 percent.

During the month of May, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety (IDOT/DTS) will join forces with more than 450 local, county and state law enforcement officers for the Click It or Ticket campaign.  During this campaign, law enforcement officers will be on the lookout for unbuckled drivers and passengers and will issue tickets to those choosing not to buckle up.  Many agencies will focus their efforts on nighttime enforcement to combat the increasing number of fatalities occurring during nighttime hours.

Our goal is simply to prevent injury and death on Illinois roadways.  The loss of one life affects hundreds of people- husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, neighbors, friends, co-workers and the list goes on.  It is as simple as this.  When you get behind the wheel, choose to buckle up choose to put your child in a safety seat; choose to put your cell phone away; choose not to speed and choose not to drink and drive.   These choices will save you money and could also save you the ultimate price – your life.

Visit today to learn how you can get involved in our Click It or Ticket campaign. 

Jennifer Toney and Megan Eairheart
Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety – Occupant Protection Program.


What career allows a person to discuss breeds of beef cattle, create a floral design, discuss selling corn on the futures market, and make ice cream all in one day? An agricultural teacher is able to do all of these things and so much more in one day. An agriculture teacher is not only an educator or an FFA advisor, but they are a mentor to all of their students which includes guiding them to figure out their career interests and determine future plans. Although the career can be demanding, crazy, and hectic, it is extremely rewarding and no two days are ever alike.

In today’s society, a surplus of jobs in most industries does not exist, and many college graduates are struggling to find jobs. However, in the agricultural industry, this is not the case. As the world population continues to grow, all of these people have to be fed and clothed and the only people that can get that job done are farmers and other professionals in the agricultural industry. For this reason alone, it is vital that agriculture is taught in high schools. If young people are not exposed to agriculture through high school programs and do not know about the opportunities the agricultural industry provides, there will not be anyone to meet the future world demands nor anyone to fill those 300 + careers related to agriculture.

By having agricultural classes in high school, agricultural educators are given the opportunity to share their passion of agriculture with students and get them interested and curious about a major industry that provides so much. Today’s agricultural classes are no longer just about “cows, sows, and plows”, but they incorporate so many more aspects, such as horticulture, natural resources, agribusiness management, and leadership and communication. These classes will not only prepare students for the many careers available in the agricultural industry, but they also teach students valuable life skills which include how to keep financial records, how to speak in front of groups, and how to effectively communicate with others in a diverse settings.

In many of today’s schools, administrators believe that agriculture is not an important part of the school curriculum because it is not teaching subject matter related to the standardized tests. However, the curriculum used in agricultural programs incorporates all of these subjects that students are being tested on annually. For example, in one day students may be writing an essay on the benefits of GMOs, or reading an article about wind energy, or calculating interest on a car loan, or testing the pH of different substances. All of these activities relate to core concepts like reading, writing, math and science, taught in schools but agriculture classes just focus on them in unordinary ways and put them in a context students find meaningful.

If you are not fortunate enough to have agriculture in your school, there are a multitude of resources available to use to incorporate agriculture into your daily lessons. One of the best resources to use that will give you a lot of useful general knowledge about different areas of agriculture is the Illinois Farm Bureau-Ag in the Classroom website, This website has great activities that do not take very long and are easily implemented yet at the same time teach key agricultural concepts to students. Another great resource for information about corn is the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  This resource has great ideas for how to teach students about corn and many different activities that can be used with all different ages. If you want to know more about agricultural education or get a program started in your area, contact FCAE (Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education) by visiting their website,

Jessica Collins
May 2011 Ag Education Graduate


May is Clean Air Month, a topic that is very important to the American Lung Association in Illinois (ALA-IL). Many people are aware of the ALA-IL’s involvement in cleaning the air of unhealthy cigarette smoke, but ALA-IL is also involved in the use of biofuels as a Clean Air Choice. One of our areas of focus is the promotion of the use of E85 fuel – a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline – which is a cleaner-burning and renewable alternative to petroleum gasoline.

The use of E85 and purchasing of Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are a significant source for clean air in Illinois as a single car can prevent 4 tons of CO2 as well as other harmful pollutants from entering the air we breathe. With over 9 million FFVs on the road in the U.S. today, this has the potential for a major clean air improvement. Production of E85 also sustains jobs in Illinois as we are the 2nd leading producer of ethanol in the country, with over 470 million gallons of ethanol being used for fuel each year.

How is the ALA-IL promoting E85 and FFVs? In the year 2010, the ALA-IL assisted in the funding of constructing 12 E85 pumps throughout Illinois. With “The Obama Administration looking to add 10,000 so-called ‘blender pumps’ over the next five years to the inventory of about 2,350 pumps that can distribute E85,” (Auto Observer) the ALA-IL plans to stay involved in this infrastructure program for years to come. Additionally, the ALA-IL has been running a Flex-Fuel Vehicle Dealership Development Program throughout Illinois since mid-2010. This program has aided in the sale of nearly 700 FFVs in Illinois in less than a year and has expanded consumer education on the topic of E85 fuel.  Also, be sure to check out our E85 Coupon Program website to learn more about our programs and for an opportunity to request a $10 E85 coupon for use at any of the over 150 participating stations in Illinois.

So the next time you think of the American Lung Association in Illinois, think clean air through E85 fuel.

Crystal Bolliger
Environmental Programs Coordinator
American Lung Association in Illinois