Califonia Bountiful

From fields to bookshelves

September/October 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Children create colorful stories about California agriculture

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it's a child following along as his parent reads a picture book or an adult recalling a grandparent's tale of a great adventure of long ago, stories can awaken the mind and transport you to a different place and time. Through the innovative "Imagine this…" Story Writing Contest, schoolchildren have the opportunity each year to create their own stories.

The rules are simple: Tell a story, true or fictional, about something related to agriculture. The story can be about a fruit or a vegetable, a farm animal, plants or whatever sparks the imagination of third- through eighth-grade students. Teachers involved in the contest instruct students on research, writing, grammar and how to tell a narrative.

The young writers create characters and dialogue for their stories, and high school art students illustrate the winning entries using watercolors, colored pencils, ink and Sharpies. The stories are then published in a colorful storybook (see Book Reviews).

"'Imagine this…' has allowed me to teach good writing skills while talking with the kids about agriculture," third-grade teacher Jennifer Limberg of Glenn County said. "It's a huge part of our community, so it also fits in well with our social studies program."

This year's winning entries include stories about where wool and pistachios come from, the importance of families and the journey of a drop of water through California.

Nathan Tanega of Stanislaus County, the eighth-grade state winner, said he was surprised to learn of the important role of California farmers and ranchers: "For example, I had no idea California was No. 1 in the nation producing flowers."

More than 1,000 students statewide took part in the 2020 "Imagine this…" program, sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

"The contest gives students the chance to think about agriculture in a different way. It causes students to investigate how agriculture impacts their lives and learn about the people and processes required to get food to their tables and fiber into the clothes they wear," said Judy Culbertson, the foundation's executive director. "We see such a wide range of topics that students choose to write about. The stories that impersonate fruits and vegetables are some of our favorites!"

Judy Farah

'Imagine this...' story-writing contest 2020 state winners

The Mystery of Merino's Wool 

By Ellie Stover

Third Grade, Plaza School, Glenn County
Teacher: Jennifer Limberg
Illustrators: Hannah Butler, Nadia Spencer and Sarah Baron
Inderkum High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Rachel Rodriguez

"I wanted to write an entertaining, funny story about agriculture."

Merino the sheep gets a big surprise when he goes into the barn and comes out sheared! He learns what his wooly coat was used for.

The Strawberry Owner

By Valerie Nava

Fourth Grade, Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Madera County
Teacher: Chris Lavagnino
Illustrators: James Clark, Joy Taylor, Elizabeth Mandujano and Zoey Mills
Delta High School, Clarksburg
Art instructor: Corrie Soderlund

"In second grade, I made my own book and I always wanted to get it published."

A talking strawberry helps a young girl get a pet puppy.

One Amazing Family

By Olivia Piazza

Fifth Grade, Gratton Elementary School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Sheila Amaral
Illustrators: Addie Ferrer and Lauren Peña Turner
Woodland High School, Woodland
Art instructor: Scott Coppenger

"I live on an almond farm, so I got a lot of important information for my story from my dad."

Three generations of a farming family come together to fix a broken almond huller.

My Journey: A Drop of Water

By Finley Brady

Sixth Grade, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Star Pedron
Illustrators: Emilie Ly, Pa Zong Vang and Zolpenoor Shafaq
Florin High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Alexandra Pease

"My favorite part of the story is when Sam and (his friend) Bob floated down the Sacramento River."

A drop of water named Sam takes a fantastic voyage to the Pacific Ocean.

The Pistachio Man

By Isabella Diep

Seventh Grade, Hickman Charter School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Roxanne Lemos
Illustrators: Liv Bryant, Connie Weng and Samantha Jang
Franklin High School, Elk Grove
Art instructor: Derek Bills

"I love brainstorming names, ages and the characterization of my characters in all my writing. For me, it is super fun."

How did pistachios come to California? A young man named William reveals the answer in a dramatization of the true story.

Laura & Lana: California Fairies of Flora & Fauna

By Nathan Tanega

Eighth Grade, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, Stanislaus County
Teacher: Star Pedron
Illustrators: Sophia Reynoso-Lopez and Akilah York
Sheldon High School, Sacramento
Art instructor: Kelsey Dillard

"My favorite part of the story was describing the different ways that eggs can be prepared, because I really do love eating eggs!"

A lively poem recounts the adventures of two fairies who help California's animals and plants grow.

Kids, you can be an author!

The "Imagine this..." Story Writing Contest is an annual competition for California schoolchildren in third through eighth grades. It teaches them writing and grammar skills, plus collaboration and creativity. Students work with their teachers to create stories about California agriculture. The winners then have their stories illustrated by high school art students and published in a colorful storybook.

There are six state winners and 48 regional winners. Along with having their work published, the state winners also receive a medal, are honored at a dinner and meet lawmakers at California Agriculture Day at the state Capitol.

Deadline for entries in the 2021 "Imagine this…" contest is Nov. 1. Details can be found at

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