Califonia Bountiful

Mandy Garner

9th-12th Grade Agriculture Teacher
Liberty Ranch High School
Sacramento County

This interview was originally published on CFAITC's blog, "The Fencepost."

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator? 
I have always wanted to be a teacher, but I became an agriculture teacher because of the great experiences I had in agricultural education courses and in FFA as a high school student. 

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My students loved being part of San Francisco Farm Day! It was a great chance to teach inner-city, elementary students about agriculture and learn about people with different educational experiences than we have in Galt. Our students have so much exposure to agriculture all around them. It was interesting to see the neighborhood surrounding the school where students live without a front or back yard.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you and how does that impact the way you educate students?
I have been surprised about how little students know about agriculture in our area even though it is all around them. I have also been thrilled about their excitement about learning about agriculture and their participation level in planting seeds for our community garden. The student's high excitement and participation level has motivated me as a teacher to organize more agricultural literacy projects to further develop our student leaders to teach elementary students about agriculture.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
My mentor as a student and young teacher was Dr. Brad Dodson, currently the teacher educator at California State University, Chico. My experience with agriculture as a student only included animals. Dr. Dodson showed me all aspects of agricultural education, including plants, floriculture, and leadership. With his encouragement, I pursued a career in teaching agriculture. I love my job and am thankful I chose this career path.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
In April, I was selected as the Star State Advisor in California. This was a golden teaching moment because I was selected by a panel of students from all over the state of California, and I felt so much love and support from my own students, co-workers, and community. I am honored to teach with so many other really great agriculture teachers in California who I hold in high regard. To be selected was a tremendous honor.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
We implemented a community garden at our high school. This area teaches our students how to grow their own food and the entire product harvested is donated to the local food bank. We are learning so much about each crop we plant. We are nearing our first harvest and we are really excited to deliver our first home-grown crop of fresh, safe food to those who need it most!

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
Reach out to the many people who are passionate about agriculture and willing to help! When we were in the early stages of starting our community garden I wasn't fully confidant in knowing exactly what to do. My background is in horticulture, but I do not have a lot of experience in growing crops for consumption. I have been amazed at the amount of people willing to help. I have reached out to Master Gardeners in our area and they have been so encouraging about our project. Also, I thought it would take a lot of extra time to develop a program to work with elementary students, but there are so many great resources, especially on the Agriculture in the Classroom website, that has made it easy to implement a program for my high school students to teach younger students about agriculture. All parties involved love working together!

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
Especially in today's society of childhood obesity and the amount of people not having enough food, it is more important than ever to teach others about agriculture. Being connected to agriculture and having the ability to grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables is essential. Additionally, being able to advocate for agriculture is important to ensure that we will always be able to feed our nation.

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