“It is important for kids to learn that food in fact does not come from the grocery store, it is a stop on the way,” Wyoming Governor Matt Mead stated during a February meeting with Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation members. “It (food production) requires not only the ability to have generations in agriculture, but then to have the lands and the means and the policies to allow farmers and ranchers to grow food.”

            Recognizing the importance of Wyoming agriculture and educating school children through reading, the week of March 7th has been designated by Governor Mead as “Wyoming Agricultural Literacy Week.”

            Educating Wyoming school children about agriculture is the goal of the Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) Committee “Ag Books for Kids” project.   2016 marks the twelfth year of the project. The WyFB YF&R Committee organizes the project and the county Farm Bureaus across the state donate agriculture books each year to Wyoming elementary school libraries.          

During the proclamation signing on Feb. 25 the Governor emphasized the importance of educating about agriculture through literacy.

“It is a hopeful message that kids have the opportunity to learn about agriculture so for Farm Bureau to make this happen is much appreciated,” Governor Mead stated.

“If people don’t understand where their food comes from then they also won’t understand the importance of water, access to public lands for grazing and more. Then you start seeing bad policies and that is a trend I don’t like to see,” He continued. “I think the trend can be reversed with you young people continuing the good message of the importance of agriculture and what it means to us. Very simply stated it means we either are fed or we go hungry.”

The “Wyoming Agriculture Literacy Week” proclamation reads: “Educating through literature is a top priority for school children; where reading is a fundamental standard in the education system.”

            The proclamation continues: “Many aspects of our daily lives, including the food we eat, clothes we wear, and medicine we depend on, are all intertwined and made possible because of agriculture.  Wyoming agriculture also provides open spaces, scenic vistas and fresh air.  Not only do Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers provide us with the food we eat, but they are also the first environmental stewards, maintaining and improving the soil and natural resources to pass on to future generations.” 

“We need agriculture,” stated Cole Coxbill, Goshen County farmer and WyFB YF&R State Chair. “The Governor said food security is more important than energy security. If we can’t feed ourselves in this country we are in trouble.”

“We as farmers and ranchers in the United States have the tools we just need to be able to preserve the ability to keep going on for the future,” Coxbill continued.

“As farmers and ranchers in the state of Wyoming, it was great to see the support from Governor Mead,” said Stacy Berger, Albany County Rancher and WyFB YF&R State Vice Chair. “He said that we are a nation that can't fully fuel itself and that has put us in some uncomfortable situations. We need to think about the consequences of not being able to feed ourselves.”

Agriculture is the third largest industry in Wyoming. According to Governor Mead, in addition to the direct benefits provided there are also many collateral benefits to agriculture.

“The open spaces provided by farmers and ranchers allows the mineral industry to do some of the work they need to do,” He explained. “And people come from all over the world to see our wide open spaces and what that provides in terms of water, open land and wildlife; that is what they want to see from our tourism industry.”

            Three contests are offered for Wyoming students to encourage use of the book and provide application opportunities for what is learned.  The 2016 contests are:  Coloring Contest for kindergarten and first graders; Poster Contest for second and third graders; and a Creative Writing Contest for fourth and fifth graders. 

“In Wyoming we just assume that everyone knows and understands what agriculture is all about. This is not the case for the majority of people. That is why the Ag Books for Kids is such a good program,” said Tony Micheli, Uinta County rancher and WyFB YF&R Committee member. “From a young age students are learning a variety of issues that are not accurate when it comes to what really happens on farms and ranches. As agriculture producers we need to make sure our youth learn and understand the truth and how important agriculture is to everyone.”

Wyoming students and teachers are encouraged to visit their school’s elementary library to check out the 2016 book "Farm Life... We Live It, We Love It" by Sheridan and Rianna Chaney. Next, visit www.wyfb.org and click on the education tab for contest rules and details. For questions, kclark@wyfb.org or 307.532.2002. The county contest deadline is April 8, 2016.

"Governor Mead is a consistent champion for agriculture.  He realizes that teaching children about agriculture is a great first step to understanding where food comes from,” said Rachel Grant, Converse County Rancher and WyFB YF&R Committee Member. "Our kids especially enjoyed meeting Governor Mead and are excited to share "Farm Life... We Live It, We Love It" with their school.”