Califonia Bountiful

Imagine this...

Sept./Oct. 2013 California Bountiful magazine

California students connect with food and farm through storytelling.

More online: Meet the illustrators

"What's for dinner?" When California schoolchildren pose this question at home, chances are many of them will not only find out what's on the menu, they'll also know something about the ingredients.

Authors of the winning stories are, from left, front row: Abigail Patel, Emily Swann and Morgan Gravatt; back row: Wyatt Black, Kole Joachim (honorable mention), Mary Bunn and Sarah Truxton.

Throughout the past 20 years, more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight have researched and written tales about food and fiber grown in California, the nation's largest agricultural state.

"The 'Imagine this...' program has evolved through the years and continues to expand," said Stephanie Etcheverria, who helps coordinate the program sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Class­room.

Carefully designed to support California's core classroom curriculum, "Imagine this..." challenges students to select topics related to agriculture and conduct research. Then they're asked to use their composition skills to write a story—fact or fiction—that brings the topic to life. Think: "Guacamole in Paris" and "The Tomato's Charade," titles from two of this year's eight top stories.

More than 8,000 stories are submitted to the program each year and judged at the regional and state levels. State winners are included in an annual book illustrated by graphic design, art and photography students. (Order online or by phone at 800-700-2482.) In addition, winning authors receive a trip to Sacramento with their family during National Agriculture Week, an e-reader and $100 worth of classroom resources for their teacher.

"We're seeing a shift in stories toward the nutritional aspects of food," Etcheverria said. "We think it reflects a growing interest in where food comes from and what it contains."

Etcheverria said the program's goal is to increase knowledge about food production and agriculture, while helping to promote literacy skills statewide.

Kate Campbell

Meet the authors

Farmer Ben's Sheep

Emily Swann
3rd grade, Swann Home School
San Diego County
Teacher: Sue Swann
Illustrated by John F. Kennedy High School, Sacramento
Farmer Ben is in trouble after he buys a huge, hungry sheep that eats his neighbors' crops. Everybody gets mad. But a TV commercial gives Farmer Ben an idea—he'll rent his munching sheep to "mow" grass and sell its wool to pay for the crop damage. This story outlines how farming can help solve problems and, in this case, make peace.

"I learned California has the second largest sheep population in the United States. Not bad."

Farm Fun

Morgan Gravatt
4th grade, Gratton Elementary School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Pennie Segna
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento
When Morgan visits her grandparents' farm, she learns about the benefits of agriculture and also discovers unexpected delights—the tenderness of newborn lambs, the value of wool and what marshmallows are made from. When her parents return a week later to take her home, Morgan can't wait to tell them about life on the farm and all the fun she had.

"I live on a farm, but when I research stories, I find out new things about agriculture every time."

Guacamole in Paris

Abigail Patel
5th grade, Freedom Home School
San Diego County
Teacher: Stacy Patel
Illustrated by Central Catholic High School, Modesto
A man walks into a Paris restaurant and asks for guacamole. The three chefs throw up their hands. "What is guacamole?" The answer leads the trio to Fallbrook, Calif.—the self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world. But their problems are far from over. This story, with a romantic ending, highlights the quality of California avocados, while offering a recipe for love.

"I got the story idea from a friend who lives in Paris and couldn't find guacamole there. That surprised me."

Trucking on a Tractor

Wyatt Black
6th grade, Scott Valley Jr. High
Siskiyou County
Teacher: Tracy Dickinson
Illustrated by Kingswood K-8 School, Citrus Heights
Wyatt has a thing or two to learn about tractor driving. Seems he forgot an important maintenance step and now has to tell his dad about it. This tale highlights the attention to detail needed for farm work and the value of honesty.

"My family lives on a farm and this story gave me a chance to teach readers about something I know."

The Importance of Harold the Owl

Mary Bunn
7th grade, Gratton Elementary School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Rexann Jensen
Illustrated by Sheldon High School, Elk Grove
Heather finds a fledgling barn owl that has fallen from its nest and takes it home. With help from her veterinarian dad, she nurses it back to health and learns about the benefits of owls in the process. But, more than that, she learns that all creatures have a purpose.

"I was fascinated to learn owls eat more than 2,200 rodents a year!"

The Tomato's Charade

Sarah Truxton
8th grade, St. Stanislaus Catholic School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Judee Sani
Illustrated by Woodland High School, Woodland
News spreads through Veggie Ville—tomatoes are tasty and nutritious. But Dr. Eggspert creates an uproar when he announces the new vegetable actually is a fruit. The citizens of Veggie Ville need to decide—do tomatoes stay or go? This story about healthy food choices and variety offers a surprising conclusion.

"I was surprised by the fact that tomatoes are a fruit."

Meet the illustrators

The 2012 "Imagine this…" book showcases tales written by California student authors, and also the artistic and design talents of California students who illustrated the winning stories. Here, we introduce the illustrators.

Farmer Ben's Sheep

John F. Kennedy High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Kathleen Sailer
New to the "Imagine this..." illustration project, the group divided art assignments among team members who focused on specific details that were later incorporated into each scene. This is the first time these students have developed illustrations to match the content of a story. Artists, front row, from left: Brandon Lee, Michael Hue, Sean Toluno-Hernandez, Riley Lopez and Jasmin Garcia; back row: Andrew Leung, Jose Aguirre, Kaylan Charles, Mirla Chavarria, Branden Sen, Samantha Vue and Malachi (Mickey) Bermudez.

Farm Fun

Inderkum High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Michelle Townsend
Using a combination of hand drawing and digital effects to complete the illustrations, artists Tegist Worku, left, and Carl Mims worked together to create the final illustrations for the story. Like the author of "Farm Fun," they were both surprised to learn keratin and collagen come from animal hooves and are used in making marshmallows.

Guacamole in Paris

Central Catholic High School, Modesto
Art instructor: Lisa Barker
Artists used colored pencils and watercolor to make the story's illustrations stand out. The student artists said they learned about agriculture, as well as effective teamwork, and say they like the way the illustrations turned out. Artists, front row, from left: Josie Flores and Gabrielle Sani; back row: Kaylee Imbesi, Kaitlynn (Tea) Lawrence, Matt Ringer, Monica Aguilar and Katie Nicholini.

Trucking on a Tractor

Kingswood K-8 School, Citrus Heights
Art instructor: Kelly Bencken
Haley Platz, left, and Shannon Negrete are friends and classmates who share an interest in drawing. They didn't know much about tractors before agreeing to illustrate "Trucking on a Tractor," but they rolled up their sleeves and did some research. The results—created with pencils, illustrating markers and colored pencils—show they know discs from plows.

The Importance of Harold the Owl

Sheldon High School, Elk Grove
Art instructor: Debbie George
Illustrating the story as a team, Micheal Ngo, left, and Madelyn Chan-Yoeun said they learned about time management and communication while working on deadline. They also were intrigued to learn how beneficial barn owls are to farmers. The pair used a mix of pens, markers and airbrush to achieve their desired effect.

The Tomato's Charade

Woodland High School, Woodland
Art instructor: Dawn Abbott
When she accepted the assignment to illustrate "The Tomato's Charade," Arianna Garcia combined two personal interests—agriculture and art. The high school senior has been active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs and currently takes agriculture classes. She says creating the illustrations helped her learn to focus on meeting deadlines and thinking creatively.

Join the fun and 'Imagine this…'

Every year, more than 8,000 California schoolchildren participate in the "Imagine this..." story writing contest. Through the program, young writers have an opportunity to research and learn about agriculture while using their creativity. The program's guidelines meet common core standards for California schools. Entries must be postmarked by Nov. 1, annually. For details, visit

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