Kids in after-school program plant their own basil, peppers and tomatoes to take home.

Once again this week, students enrolled in the after-school care program at Highland School in Crookston were exposed to one of agriculture’s major components. The University of Minnesota Crookston’s Office of Outreach and Engagement is coordinating the “Ag in the Classroom” initiative, which, once a week for five weeks is introducing elementary students to the “Five F’s of Agriculture.”

The program kicked off last week in the Highland library with a focus on “Fiber,” and among other activities, students made their own bracelets, chains and necklaces out of hemp. At the second event Thursday, they learned about “Flowers” by planting basil, green pepper and tomato seeds in a pot that they took home with them to care for and watch grow. (Students were told Thursday that sprinkling some fresh basil on a slice of pizza is especially delicious.)

UMN Crookston’s Horticulture program donated the pots, soil and seeds used on Thursday.

Agricultural “F’s” to be explored in the coming weeks include Food, Farming and Forestry.

There are approximately 50 students enrolled in the free after-school program at Highland. Through Ag in the Classroom, the goal is that the students will gain a stronger appreciation of agriculture and discover career pathways in agriculture and the food industry, said Michelle Christopherson, director of Outreach and Engagement at UMN Crookston.

The “Ag in the Classroom” initiative is being made possible by a financial gift from Pine Lake Wild Rice (PLWR) in Gonvick, Minnesota. Christopherson is leading the effort, with assistance from UMN Crookston students. Helping out at the sessions at Highland are Marah Mcdougal, a marketing major from Minneapolis, Moe Hagi, a marketing major from Maple Grove, Minn., and Morgan Collins, and ag education major from DeGraff, Minn.

Christopherson noted that the gift from PLWR comes with a commitment to increase awareness of science, agriculture and sustainability, including food-security.

Buoyed by publicity from last’s week’s inaugural event at Highland, it’s possible the Ag in the Classroom program will expand. School districts interested in learning more may contact Christopherson at mchristo@umn.edu or 281-8369.