Laura Hickey, Associate Editor
It’s still dark outside as a Virginia dairy
farmer gets out of bed for what has become his early morning ritual —
milking and feeding the cows, a task done up to three times a day.
Miles away and hours later, a young child sits
down for breakfast with his family and floods his morning cereal with
cold, fresh milk, then enjoys a separate glass of the white liquid —
with little or no idea of the work that went into making it possible for
his parents to purchase that gallon of milk at the local supermarket ...
This is where The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture
in the Classroom comes into the picture. Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC)
encourages, through education, an awareness and understanding of the
importance of agriculture, enhancing the quality of life and economic well
being of all Virginians. According to AITC’s promotional material, “As
generations of Virginians become further removed from their agrarian
roots, fewer understand agriculture’s importance. Increasingly, people
with limited knowledge and background are determining agricultural policy,
which is affecting the industry’s success and possibly survival.”
Virginia’s AITC program started in 1987 when
information about the industry was first made available to teachers. Then,
in 1992, the Virginia Farm Bureau recognized AITC’s potential as an
agricultural outreach mechanism and employed a handful of individuals to
coordinate the program.
The AITC program, designed for teachers of
kindergarten through fifth grade, provides hands-on activities,
grade-level-specific lessons, and information about Virginia agriculture
through orientations and workshops conducted at schools around the state
of Virginia. The program is aligned with the Virginia Standards of
Learning (SOL). The workshops are conducted free of charge due to the
generosity of individuals, companies, and grants. AITC enjoys broad
support from a variety of private, government and business entities,
including Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.
gets involved in fundraisers in order to generate additional funds. The
foundation’s current fundraiser is The Best of Virginia Farms Cookbook & Tour Book, written by CiCi
Williamson and co-published by Menasha Ridge Press and CI Publishing.
There are four publishing partners involved in the fundraising project:
Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Department of Agriculture, Virginia
Farm Bureau, and WHR-TV in Hampton Roads. Martha Steger, of the Virginia
Tourism Corporation, says, “It’s been an exciting project to work on.
The cookbook contains a wealth of good resources for consumers. There are
stories behind the recipes, family stories and interviews, tours, and
cookbook, being sold for $24.95, captures the intimate relationship
between the state’s agriculture and overall identity with interviews,
tours, sidebars, essays, and recipes, along with unique illustrations and
maps. According to the publisher, the book promises to “enrich the
spirit and tap into the traditions and mystique that surround farming in
Virginia and celebrate the family bonds and rugged individuality of family
Flipping through the cookbook, the recipes are
reminiscent of good old Southern home cooking. Whatever tantalizes your
palate — be it Meadow Creek Dairy’s Cheese Bread or Snap Beans With
Smithfield Ham and Peanuts — the cookbook features recipes of a local
flavor, and a little something for everyone. Nothing epitomizes Southern
cooking like chicken and dumplings, spoonbread, collard greens, bread
pudding, candied yams, pecan pie, hush puppies, fried chicken, Brunswick
stew, and deep-fried catfish.
Also featured are recipes from well-known dining
establishments (such as The Jefferson Hotel, The Ivy Inn, The Tobacco
Company, Miller & Rhoads, Martha Washington Inn, and Colonial Gardens)
for everything from Williamsburg Inn’s signature decadent crème brulee
to Crab House’s quintessential crab cakes. There are also a few family
favorites from the personal cookbooks of famous people — among them are
President George W. Bush’s oven-roasted brisket, President James
Monroe’s chicken gumbo, Willard Scott’s country pork sausage, Senator
George Allen’s lasagna, Dolley Madison’s peppermint ice cream, and
President Woodrow Wilson’s lemon cake.
Davis, executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom, with a
copy of The Best of Virginia Farms Cookbook & Tour Book.
Karen Davis, executive director of AITC, says,
“We’re very excited about this fundraiser. It’s a beautiful cookbook
and a portion of the proceeds go toward promoting agriculture in
Virginia’s classrooms.” According to Davis, this year she expects
800-850 teachers will use the AITC program, the average for the past four
years. “We’ve never had a school system say it wasn’t worthwhile. We
try to reach as many people as possible with our message, and it’s a lot
easier with the support we get from county farm bureaus and women’s
committees,” she says.
AITC consists of three full-time employees — Davis,
executive director; Wendy Strong, program coordinator; and Roberta Via,
administrative assistant. “When giving workshops, we go from Accomack
County to Lee County, and hopefully not in the same year — although, we
have done that,” Davis says, with a laugh. Wendy Strong, program
coordinator, plays a key role in the program; she goes out and administers
the program through orientations and workshops. “Wendy taught school for
13 years as an elementary school teacher in Louisa County public schools
before she came to AITC, so she knows the challenges that teachers face in
classrooms today. She does a great job working with teachers, because
she’s been there herself,” explains Davis.
To get your copy of The
Best of Virginia Farms Cookbook & Tour Book for $24.95, call
1-800-553-8970. Or, for more information on Virginia Foundation for
Agriculture in the Classroom, contact Karen Davis at (804) 290-1142 or
visit their Web site at www.vafb.com.