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Garden Activity #1: Marketing Your Product
Growing and harvesting a crop is only part of the farming process, in order to be a successful farmer, you must also sell your crop. Although most agricultural crops are used to fulfill basic needs, farmers still spend time and money promoting their crops to consumers to increase sales. Bring in examples of agricultural product promotions. Some of the better known national promotions include:

Also, check out information about the statewide Pride of New York campaign at: http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/ PrideOfNY/pride_index.html designed to promote agricultural products grown and processed in the state of New York. You can use their search engine to find local farmers participating in the campaign (potential classroom speakers). The Web site includes information about the Farm-to- School Program and links to resources to use with the New York Harvest for New York Kids week.

Products are promoted in a number of ways, but one of the most common promotion methods used in our society is advertisements (other promotion ideas include coupons/special offers and word of mouth). Advertisements are prepared written and verbal announcements designed to promote a product or service. They are distributed through many types of media including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, etc.

Sometimes companies create ads they hope will appeal to a wide audience. Other times they target a specific group and create an ad especially attractive to that group. Discuss how ads are designed for general and targeted audiences and ask your class to brainstorm examples of each.

Ask students to find a newspaper or magazine advertisement that is appealing to them then complete the Advertisement Evaluation Worksheet to analyze it and determine why they like it so much. As a class, create a list of common features or characteristics of good ads (this list may include things like attractive pictures, easy to read text, informative details, etc).

To put this new information into practice, ask students to create an ad for your school farm product. They can choose to design it for a general audience or a targeted audience. You can also let them choose between creating a print ad (magazine or newspaper) or write a verbal ad (designed for a radio or television commercial). If possible, use some of the student created ads to promote your product in school newspapers, newsletters, as flyers, at local radio stations, or on public TV stations.

Garden Activity #2: Genetic Engineering of Plants
In Module 3, students were introduced to the creation of new plant varieties through plant breeding, a technique refined in the 20th century. During the second half of the 20th century, scientist began to explore another technique for creating new plant varieties- genetic engineering.

All living things are made up of cells. Each cell contains material known as DNA which is like a blueprint for the cell and the organism. The DNA contains a message which when translated tells the cell how to grow, function and reproduce.

The DNA is divided into different segments and each segment directs specific functions and results in specific characteristics. These segments are called genes. In the 1970's, scientists discovered they could go into a cell and remove genes and replace them with other genes resulting in altered characteristics or functions of a cell and in the organism. Since that time they have worked to identify the jobs of the different genes and used the technology to create improved organisms. The process of altering genes is called genetic engineering.

Scientists have used genetic engineering to create new plant varieties with improved traits or characteristics. These crops are often referred to as genetically modified or GM. Most of the crops researched are food crops because of their economic importance. Some examples include:

  • Scientist used genetic engineering to create plant varieties with improved market qualities such as improved taste and longer shelf life. The first GM food crop to hit the grocery stores, the tomato, fits into this category. Scientists working for Calgene, Inc created a new tomato variety named Flavr Savr. Flavr Savr tomatoes ripen slower than normal tomatoes and therefore can travel further and stay on the grocery store shelf longer before rotting.
  • Creating plants with increased disease and insect resistance is another major objective of scientists working with genetic engineering projects. For example, new varieties of corn possess built-in pest resistance. Corn ear worm is a common pest of corn crops, but it can be killed by a soil bacteria called B.t. (the full scientific name of the bacteria is Bacillus thuringiensis). B.t. produces a toxic protein that kills worms and caterpillars (it is not harmful to humans or other animals). Scientists took genes the from B.t. that tell the bacteria to produce this toxin and inserted them into corn plants. Now a corn plant also produces the toxic protein and kills any corn ear worm that munches on it.
  • Another area of research involves creating fruits and vegetables with enhanced nutritional value. For example, a company named Syngenta developed a GM rice variety containing beta carotene. Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body and an important nutrient for vision and healthy skin, bones and teeth. It is called golden rice because the beta carotene adds a yellow-gold color to the grains. Deficiency in vitamin A is a common problem in many Third World country populations where rice is a staple food and so the hope is golden rice will increase vitamin A levels in those areas and improve overall health.

Genetic engineering of plants, especially food crops, is a controversial issue. Scientists supporting GM foods promote the benefits of the new crops including improved market quality, reduced use of pesticides and increased nutritional value. However, there are also individuals concerned about the modifications to our food crops who oppose genetic engineering of plants. Many believe that in spite of extensive testing, since GM crops are fairly new to our food supply, additional problems may appear over time. They argue that GM foods may affect people with allergies who eat modified food without knowing of the alterations. Additionally, they think the altered crops may have negative effects on naturally occurring plant and animal species and wonder if these crops will eventually alter the balance of the ecosystem. Humans make a significant impact on nature through the use of genetic engineering and the critics believe we may find out later these impacts possess negative consequences.

Despite concerns, the number of crops developed using genetic engineering is on the rise. To explore this topic with your students, ask them to read the article "New Gene Fights Potato Blight" from Science News for Kids available at: http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/articles/20030723/Note2.asp. As a class, make a list of the pros and cons associated with genetically modified plants. Bring in additional articles or conduct a class Internet search to explore additional viewpoints. Ask students to brainstorm a list of ways to resolve this issue (such as conducting additional research studies specifically long term research studies). After class discussions, as them to write a paper on their thoughts about genetically modified food and whether or not they feel it is safe to eat.

For more information about GM foods check out the Guess What's Coming to Dinner website from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/coming/. This interactive illustration is part of program titled "Harvest of Fear" available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/ discussing the controversies surrounding GM foods. Although most of the content is designed for older students, the information presented may help you introduce this topic.

Garden Activity #3: Careers in Agriculture
As discussed in Module 3, the number of people farming full time has decreased significantly through the years; however, the agriculture industry includes additional job and career opportunities beyond those on the farm. In a broad sense, the agriculture industry includes all jobs directly and indirectly related to the production of plant and animal crops and is an area increasing in employment opportunities.

Ask local agriculture professionals to speak to your class about their careers and the opportunities available. Make sure they discuss the following:

  • job responsibilities
  • required skills and or education (link to subject matter)
  • impact on society
  • opportunities available
  • why they chose their career
  • steps students should take if they want to this type of career

To help you think of good speakers for the class, review the Careers in Agriculture Chart. It includes descriptions of some agriculture related career fields including example jobs and links to additional information and professional societies. Use the Future Farmers of America Career Explorer at: http://www.ffa.org/index.cfm?method=c_job.CareerSearch for more ideas. The USDA also has a career page just for kids on Sci4Kids at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids/scientists/scientistsframe2.htm and one at: http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/USDA/careers/agriculturaleconomist.html. Additionally the USDA published a report on current and future careers in agriculture at: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/csrees_news/USDA_05_Report2.pdf.