“The opportunity for young people to have literacy in agriculture is not only good for general learning it is also good for the basic understanding they need to have of where things come from, most importantly food,” Wyoming Governor Matt Mead stated during a February meeting with Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) Committee members.

Recognizing the importance of the Wyoming agriculture industry and educating school children through reading, the week of March 9th has been designated by Governor Mead as “Wyoming Agricultural Literacy Week.” 

Educating Wyoming school children about agriculture is the goal of the WyFB YF&R Committee “Ag Books for Kids” project.   2015 marks the eleventh 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 the elementary school libraries across Wyoming.      

During the proclamation signing on Feb. 3, the Governor emphasized the importance of educating about agriculture through literacy. 

“Non-fiction literacy is important because students are learning the facts and the reality of the world,” Governor Mead stated.  “In terms of agriculture literacy, it is critically important to our state and country because we need people to know what agriculture means to them, not just occasionally, but every single day of their life.”

“Learning starts when kids are young so spurring the thought process about agriculture while they are young is important,” WyFB YF&R State Chair and Goshen County Farmer Cole Coxbill said.  “We appreciate the Governor’s support of agriculture literacy and our organization’s “Ag Books” project.”

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.” 

Governor Mead emphasized the importance of agriculture for the stability of our state and country.  “It would be appropriate for us to thank a farmer or rancher because they keep food on our table.  They are the ones that provide opportunities and so many jobs, they are the ones that provide a quality of life not just for those in agriculture, but for those who enjoy open spaces and vistas,” He explained. 

Agriculture is the third largest industry in Wyoming.  According to Governor Mead, agriculture should also get a “supporting actor/actress” award for other industries.

“As you calculate the amount of money agriculture brings into the state it is always undersold,” He explained.  “If you hypothetically said we eliminated 11,000 farms and ranches and put houses there, what opportunities would be lost for sportsmen, hunting, fishing and wildlife, oil and gas and mineral development?  Agriculture is big in and of itself, but it also supports everything we do in this state.”

 “We should never take it for granted because agriculture doesn’t come by accident, it is a lot of hard work and dedication of many people through many generations,” Governor Mead stated.  “As we think about the future of agriculture it is going to take not only the dedication and hard work that we have known since Statehood, but it is also going to take great education because as fewer people are based in agriculture we have to reach out to everyone and explain the role of agriculture.”

“Because it has been so good for so long, we as a country don’t know starvation, there are some who have experienced this, but we as a country don’t know starvation and what it is like to be hungry,” Mead stated.  “That cannot be overstated because when you are hungry and can’t feed your family, little else matters, and what agriculture supplies is the stability of food day in and day out.”

 “Agriculture is huge in Wyoming, it is huge for our country, and it is huge for the world,” Governor Mead concluded.

"As a young agriculture producer in Wyoming, it is exciting to have a governor that understands the importance of agriculture, not only to our state, but to our nation and world,” said Rachel Grant, Converse County Rancher and WyFB YF&R Committee Member.  “We have a lot of years ahead of us on the ranch and in the cow business; it's encouraging to work in a state that values what we do."

 Three contests are offered for Wyoming students to encourage use of the book and provide application opportunities for what is learned from reading the book.  The 2015 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. 

Wyoming students and teachers are encouraged to visit their school’s elementary library to check out the 2015 book “Extra Cheese Please!” by Cris Peterson.  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 10, 2015.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general agriculture organization.  The purpose of the YF&R program is to develop leaders for the betterment of agriculture and Farm Bureau.   Visit www.wyfb.org.