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Students in Dane County will gain a much broader understanding of agriculture in their communities thanks to a new partnership between the county and the Dane County Farm Bureau.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced that the effort will help to educate teachers and K-12 students on the importance of agriculture in the economy and society.

Ag in the Classroom programs provide educational activities for youth and adults on how food is produced, increases safety of youth on the farm, and introduces youth to career opportunities in agriculture.

Parisi said $40,000 in new county funds have been appropriated in the 2020 budget proposal to help the Dane County Extension coordinate the program.

“Agriculture is a key economic driver for Dane County, contributing more than $1.2 billion to county income,” said County Executive Parisi in a news release. “As the number one agriculture-producing county in the state of Wisconsin, it is important that future generations learn about and have an understanding of our farming community and how our food is produced. My 2020 budget invests in this new collaborative effort to increase agriculture education and awareness.”

For 36 years, the Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom program has been coordinated by Wisconsin Farm Bureau when the it was first introduced in the state. The agricultural education program provides free, hands-on and interactive agricultural information that makes learning about food, farming, and careers in agriculture fun, while following current curriculum standards.

“There is a vast opportunity to educate youth about agriculture with over 78,000 students in nearly 150 schools in Dane County alone,” said Dane County Farm Bureau Board Member Caleb Karls. “Dane County Farm Bureau is eager to continue educating Dane County’s youth and make an even greater impact with the introduction of a full-time Ag in the Classroom program coordinator. This partnership will make it possible to reach even more students and schools.”

The Dane County Farm Bureau has relied on volunteers to coordinate and teach the program. This new partnership between Farm Bureau and the county will allow Dane County Extension to hire a full-time program coordinator to significantly expand, reach more classrooms, and increase Ag educational activity throughout Dane County.

Dane County Extension Director Carrie Edgar said, “We are excited about this new partnership with Dane County Farm Bureau as we share a mission of educating the public on agriculture. With Ag in the Classroom, we will focus on providing high quality, research-based educational programs for both urban and rural students in Dane County.”

Edgar plans to hire an Ag in the Classroom program coordinator and start offering programs in classrooms in early 2020.

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