AITC marks 25 years of connecting Virginia children to agriculture

The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

educationSince 1992, the nonprofit affiliate of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has collected more than $5 million in donations to support the work of Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom. The program provides educational resources and professional development for educators to cultivate agricultural literacy.

Thanks to those donations, AITC has grown from a program that reached nearly 100 educators and 2,000 children in its first year into a fundraising entity with a variety of programs that will touch more than 2,000 educators and 200,000 children this year.

“At its inception, Agriculture in the Classroom provided curriculum and resources to fourth-grade teachers,” explained Tammy Maxey, AITC senior education manager. “Twenty-five years later, we have expanded to a multifaceted program providing professional development training for preschool, elementary and secondary educators, as well as to college students pursuing degrees in education.”

From the beginning, the foundation has created innovative programs and resources designed to pair agricultural content with core curriculum.

“Educational tools constantly expand and evolve to keep pace with current trends in education and needs of volunteers,” Maxey said.

In AITC’s early days, all programs were focused on classroom educators who shared that information with students. Today, AITC has diversified to include outreach by volunteers and direct-to-student projects inside and outside of the classroom.

“The program has always been closely tied to the VFBF Women’s Program and county Farm Bureaus. Those volunteers remain vital contributors to AITC, serving as ambassadors in their communities,” noted Kelly Pious, the foundation’s executive director.

Last year, nearly 2,000 teachers and volunteers attended training programs offered by AITC. During Virginia’s annual Agriculture Literacy Week, more than 1,000 volunteers read agriculture-related books to nearly 50,000 students across the state.

AITC offers a variety of opportunities that stimulate agricultural education in Virginia:

  • More than 40 grants have provided children with interactive experiences such as school gardens, farm-themed field trips and agricultural field days.
  • A Teacher of the Year Award recognizes educators who excel at incorporating agriculture into teaching.
  • The annual Adopt-a-Teacher program provides more than 300 teachers with a collection of classroom resources.
  • AITC’s student outreach program bridges the agricultural gap in Virginia’s urban areas and reaches more than 10,000 children annually.

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