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The Issue

There is an urgent need to promote agricultural and environmental literacy among school-aged children. In this fast-paced, urbanized world, many young people have no idea where their food comes from, nor do they understand agriculture and its impact on their daily lives. Engaging youth interest in these topics can be very challenging and requires a creative approach.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2004, UCCE staff in Ventura County launched a unique project in agricultural journalism. Working under the guidance of UCCE 4-H Youth Development/Master Gardener Program advisor Rose Hayden-Smith, UCCE 4-H Program supervisor and Junior Master Gardener coordinator Susan Gloeckler, and now emeritus farm advisor Nick Sakovich, a youth editorial board conducted research on Ventura County agriculture. The Green Thumb Reporters, as they came to be called, worked for several weeks to identify the top crops grown in Ventura County, their nutritional value and market uses, concepts of soil and water science, beneficial insects and much more. These youth wrote articles for Fields to Fridge – What’s Growing In Ventura County. Initially, the publication was posted on the Ventura County UCCE Web site. In March 2007, Fields to Fridge appeared as a 12-page newspaper tabloid.

The Payoff

200,000 households learn more about agriculture

The Ventura County UCCE team coordinated its efforts with the Ventura County Star and the Ventura County Fair to enhance countywide distribution and awareness of this educational publication. In addition to distribution with the newspaper, copies were given to 500 Ventura County teachers for use in their classrooms. The newspaper is also making copies available to all Ventura County teachers by request. In April, 15,000 copies of Fields to Fridge were given away at the Ventura County Ag Classic, and additional copies were distributed at the Ventura County Fair in August. Within the first 48 hours of publication, hundreds of copies were requested from the newspaper, and UCCE received numerous inquiries from schools and other youth-serving organizations expressing interest in providing agricultural literacy and gardening education. UCCE’s Education Team in Ventura County is supporting these requests through continuing training via a Garden Educator Series, 4-H Farm Field Trips, Junior Master Gardener Program training, a garden-based learning curriculum and resource library, and with assistance from the UC Master Gardener Program. The collaboration with the Ventura County Fair and the Ventura Star has led to plans for additional and ongoing activities and programs to support agricultural education in Ventura County. The journalism academy model was successfully replicated in the summer of 2007 when the Ventura County 4-H Youth Development staff collaborated with marine advisor Carrie Culver to offer a two-week academy focusing on developing a tabloid on marine fisheries.


Supporting Unit: Ventura County

Rose Hayden-Smith, rmhaydensmith@ucdavis.edu, (805)645-1466

Susan Gloeckler, sygloeckler@ucdavis.edu (805) 662-6943