Michelle Heuberger of St. Mary’s School in Stayton has been involved with the Adopt a Farmer program since 2014, when she was paired with Skip Gray of Gray Family Farms in Dever-Conner. After a few years of class visits and field trips, we thought she’d be the perfect candidate to share the teacher’s perspective of the Adopt a Farmer program.
Q: How did you get started with Adopt a Farmer?
A: I got started with the Adopt a Farmer program when Amy Doerfler contacted me. She is a member of the Oregon Aglink board of directors and a former St. Mary’s graduate.
Q: What do your students think of their farmer, Skip Gray?
A: My students LOVE Farmer Skip. He is really good at talking to students on their level and he does so in a fun and engaging way.
Q: What is the process like for coordinating your match with Farmer Skip? Has that changed or gotten easier over time?
A: Skip and I coordinate our meetings via email. The process is pretty easy as my schedule is really flexible. I understand how busy farmers are so I try to work around Skip’s schedule as much as possible.
Q: What do the field trips and class visits look like for your match? What do the students get to see and do?
A: Skip visits my 7th grade classroom 2-3 times a year. During those visits we try to coordinate activities which fit into the science lessons I am currently teaching. For example, during an engineering unit we used programmable robots called, Sphero. The students had to design a planter for Sphero to pull through a field. Then, students had to code Sphero to plant the field. Another example, is when the students were learning about the Periodic Table of Elements, Farmer Skip presented about common fertilizer types. Each type of fertilizer was made up of one to four elements from the Periodic Table and each fertilizer helped to develop plants with specific physical characteristics. Afterwards, students transplanted radish plants and recorded data about the effects of different fertilizers on plant growth.
Q: What has been the most valuable part of the Adopt a Farmer program for you as a teacher?
A: The most valuable part of the program comes from the real life experiences Farmer Skip is able to share and show the students. Farming is a big part of our community and modern farming practices are super important for sustainability. Farmer Skip is consistently reminding the students of this.
Q: In what ways could these field trips and class visits influence your students in the future?
A: I hope the classroom visits and the field trip influence my students to see that Farming is a very diverse industry to which is directly grown by science and research. I would love to see students in the program go onto college and look at agriculture in terms of sustainability, engineering, research and as a way to make the world a better place. Lastly, I hope they grow a new appreciation for how much work it takes to produce food and fibers.