Califonia Bountiful

Cathey Anderson

Teacher (retired), Chairwoman of the Board of San Diego Ag in the Classroom
Valley Center Middle School, Valley Center
San Diego County

This interview was originally published in the November 2011 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned of CFAITC in 1992, when I spotted a flyer on the bulletin board in our workroom. Two years later, while teaching fifth grade at Valley Center Elementary Upper School, I acted on my curiosity by enrolling in the Summer Ag Institute program. This experience kick-started my commitment, understanding, and enthusiasm to keep agriculture alive in my classroom, school, and community.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
Agriculture education had already become a part of my teaching practices before I discovered Ag in the Classroom. Years earlier, while teaching kindergarten, our campus had a 16-acre farm that was run by our middle school agriculture classes. I asked for a garden plot so we could have a "kinder-garden." A young boy, Eric, had trouble sitting still in class, but he excelled in the garden. Many of the other kids looked up to him for help and advice. Watching him gain that self-respect as his peers, even at that young age, admired him was very instrumental in validating what I intuitively already knew: Different learning styles require different avenues of expression.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
I am now retired from public school teaching, but due to my involvement with CFAITC, I now chair the board for the San Diego Ag in the Classroom. We are committed to keeping school gardens alive in our local county schools so that students have an opportunity to hear, practice, and embrace the importance of agriculture in their lives. As a retired educator, the most rewarding moments for me are when past students contact me telling me about their gardens. They are connecting what we did in class with their adult lives. They understand the importance of good nutrition and fresh food.

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
This quote by noted food writer Alan Richman says it all, "With all due respect to art, film, and theater critics, I've always believed their work was less fundamental than mine. Food is life. The rest is parsley." We can exist with everything except food and water. Our future generations need to remember that, and Ag in the Classroom is providing the opportunities and the tools to ensure that the meaning and importance of our food are not lost on today's students.

Food is life and we live in a hungry world. Without a doubt, students need to understand the issues the agricultural community faces as they battle to keep agriculture at the core of the foundation of our nation. They must understand that, as voters, their decisions will make an impact on their future whether they are involved in agriculture directly or not.


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