CHICAGO — GROWMARK and its FS member cooperatives recently renewed their commitment to Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) programs with $73,000 in support. 

During activities at the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Annual Meeting, Amy Bradford, GROWMARK corporate relations and foundation manager, announced new collaborative efforts focused on activities and education related to the importance of pollinators.

“GROWMARK and its FS member cooperatives are an integral component of Ag in the Classroom activities,†Bradford said. “We place a high priority on teaching students the role agriculture plays in their lives. This year, we are excited to participate in activities that enhance students’ understanding of the importance of pollinators in agriculture and food production. While much of the focus is on honeybees, we want students to understand there are a number of pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds, which are all important to ensuring a reliable supply of food.â€

GROWMARK’s contribution supports the development of a new Pollinators Ag Mag and companion classroom poster, which was unveiled at today’s event. Resources will highlight different types of pollinators including Monarch butterflies, bees, bats and birds. Materials and lessons also will feature native Illinois plants that serve as pollinator hosts, discuss what farmers do, and finally, what students can do to help protect and encourage pollinator habitats, which in turn help the environment. 

“Pollinators are a natural topic for teachers to use in any age classroom,†said Kevin Daugherty, education director, IAITC. “Plant sciences and environmental stewardship come together with this topic, helping students understand the importance of pollinators to farming and the environment.â€Â 

GROWMARK launched a robust pollinator support program in 2016 as part of its endure sustainability platform. The program works with FS and grain members, subsidiaries, employees, and 4-H clubs, to plant plots of wildflower seed mix to foster honeybee population growth. More than 40 4-H clubs in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, and nearly 30 GROWMARK System employees grew pollinator habitats. The program is expanding in 2017 to include FFA chapters. 

“This partnership allows thousands of students the opportunity to learn about the importance of pollinators to agriculture and our food systems,†said Lyndsey Ramsey, associate director of natural and environmental resources, IFB. “It complements GROWMARK’s excellent pollinator programs which should be commended.â€

IAITC has a rich history of being the agriculture education resource for teachers to utilize in classrooms. 

“The more than 650,000 students and 37,000 teachers actively engaged in IAITC throughout Illinois will have access to these free educational resources,†said Susan Moore, director, IAA Foundation. “Thanks to donors like GROWMARK, we hope to continue growing that number through exciting projects like pollinators.â€Â