TFB program takes learning outside the classroom Small-scale gardening and large-scale farming are quite similar, and Texas Farm Bureau’s Learning from the Ground Up program helps make that connection. “Students learn best when they are fully engaged will all of their senses, and school gardens can do just that,” Jett Mason, TFB director of Educational Outreach, said. “Students benefit academically and socially when they go outside and learn.” At the same time, they can better understand where their food gets its start. Students go outside, get their hands dirty and make connections from the garden to agriculture. They see how it applies to the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the fuel used in their family’s vehicles. The program is open to schools across the state and offers grants to help establish or improve school gardens or greenhouses. Applications are currently being accepted through Oct. 13. Through the program, three $500 grants are awarded in each of the 13 Farm Bureau districts. “Gardening is a lot like farming, just on a smaller scale,” Mason said. “We want teachers to take learning outside the classroom to provide students with real-world agricultural experiences. Learning from the Ground Up is just one of several programs offered by Texas Farm Bureau to help with youth education.” Hands-on learning in a garden can help students better understand situations that farmers and ranchers face. “The soil in the garden has to be prepared. Then seeds are planted. It’s what farmers do, too,” Mason said. “The school garden needs water just like crops in a field. Students are able to harvest the fruits and vegetables of their labor, as do farmers at the end of a growing season.” The program is a win-win, Mason said, for students and teachers. “There’s nothing like getting kids outdoors and letting them get their hands dirty,” Mason said. “Today’s students are very connected with technology and don’t explore the outdoors as much. This grant program helps students have those educational opportunities and experiences outside the classroom.” Tyler County Farm Bureau hosts East Texas Ag Tour Agriculture is a large part of East Texas. Nestled in the Pineywoods is Tyler County, known for its timber, cattle, hay production and greenhouses. To help connect local officials to the county’s agricultural roots, the Tyler County Farm Bureau hosted an Ag Tour in August. Justices of the Peace, county commissioners and staff from Congressman Brian Babin’s office were part of the group that visited Timberline Ranch. There, they learned more about F1 cattle, which are the first generation of crossbred cattle. They also toured Cypress Creek Ranch, an East Texas farm with several species of exotic animals. Their final stop was Seville Farms, a nursery business that provides annuals, perennials and ground covers to garden centers across the state, including Lowe’s and Home Depot. Local and state officials were able to experience East Texas agriculture firsthand and see how it impacts the county and state economy. TFB members discuss policy Strengthening private property rights was a common issue discussed at recent Texas Farm Bureau Policy Development meetings held across the state. Members also discussed other potential organizational policy ideas for the upcoming year. “Policy Development meetings are instrumental in mapping out our organization for the next year,” Glen Jones, director of Research and Policy Development, said. “Each district has different issues that are important to their area, but they’re also important to agriculture and rural life in our state.” About 800 county leaders were in attendance, representing nearly 160 county Farm Bureaus, at the district Policy Development meetings. The need for eminent domain reform was discussed at several of the meetings. Other top issues discussed included: animal identification and traceability, easements, agricultural use valuation and feral hog control methods. Potential policy in regard to easements was discussed. “It was brought up to have landowners receive an annual payment based on revenue generated from the easement instead of a one-time payment,” Jones said. Feral hogs are a growing nuisance for farmers and ranchers in the Lone Star State, and landowners are looking for methods and funding to control the growing population. This topic has been discussed in previous years, but it took on a greater role after control methods gained much attention during the legislative session. The need for a statewide recycling program for agriculture also surfaced. Policy proposals approved by county Farm Bureaus will be considered by the TFB Resolutions Committee in early November. The committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the TFB Annual Meeting Dec. 2-4 in Frisco.
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