Utah Farmer, Honored as 2020 Agriculture Advocate of the Year

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) and National Grange selected Utah farmer and Utah Farm Bureau Women’s Committee District Chair Sara Harward as the winner of its Agriculture Advocate Award for 2020.

Harward won the award for her personal and professional educational literacy outreach efforts involving teachers and students. She was honored virtually on Monday June 8 via Facebook Live because the 2020 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah where she was to be recognized was canceled due to COVID-19. You can see the presentation at https://agclassroom.org/get/advo_vol.cfm

As a Utah Farm Bureau Women’s Committee District chair, Harward helps organize classroom agricultural literacy efforts by pairing an American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s ‘Book of the Year’ with a related Utah Agriculture in the Classroom lesson, and coalescing volunteers to present both to teachers and students across the state. As a sweet corn and pumpkin farmer, she and her husband host thousands of teachers and students at their farm each year for fall farm field days and summer farm camps for youth.

“Talking with Sara is a truly enjoyable experience as she shares stories about the work she conducts to promote agricultural literacy and the people from whom she draws inspiration,” wrote Utah Agriculture in the Classroom Director Denise Stewardson in her letter of support. Harward’s “contributions are exemplary. For example, her work in organizing the county farm field days and hosting nearly 3,800 people at her farm annually is work that is used by other county Extension agents and Farm Bureau members as they organize their respective events.”

“The Grange Foundation is proud to present this award each year, and winners like Sara Harward keep amazing us with their passion, creativity and impact on both the children and educators they serve,” said Betsy Huber, Grange Foundation president.

“National Agriculture in the Classroom and state Agriculture in the Classroom programs depend on volunteers like Sara Harward to deliver agricultural literacy outreach to schools in their communities,” NAITCO President Will Fett said. “Agriculture in the Classroom’s strength lies in its grassroots network of volunteers like Ms. Harward who are passionate about spreading agricultural literacy in schools.”
Harward has promoted agricultural literacy in Utah for more than a decade. As the Women’s Chair for Utah County Farm Bureau for five years, she was instrumental in organizing efforts to teach students and teachers about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives through the county Farm Bureau’s agricultural literacy program. For the past four years, her role has become even more important—and impactful—as the State Farm Bureau Women’s Committee District 4 chair.

As farmers, Harward and her husband promote agricultural literacy by offering their farm for the county’s fall farm field days, hosting two, week-long farm camps for youth, and creating a fall agritourism experience. For the past decade, Harward Farms has been the location for a daylong agricultural education experience for local schoolchildren and teachers. For four consecutive days, the Harwards transform their farm and host approximately 3,800 teachers and students. Harward helps the county Extension agent organize 14 educational stations and their respective volunteers including Utah Farm Bureau, FFA chapters, Utah Wool Growers, Utah Pork Producers, Utah mink growers, Utah Tart Cherry Commission, the local water conservation district, and other commodity groups.
In 2013, Harward created an on-site summer farm camp during which she offers two, one-week sessions for children ages 4-11, and the 60 slots per week fill up immediately. She hires local FFA students, teachers, and community members to serve as instructors and helpers so that children can learn in small groups. Although she is busy managing all of the camp’s activities, she takes on the role of teacher for the nutrition and safety lessons.

Potomac Grange Partners with Ag in the Classroom

Georgia educator Carol Baker-Dunn received the 2017 Agriculture Advocate Award which is sponsored by the National Grange

Recently, Potomac Grange President Joan Smith attended the 2017 National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO) conference where more than 450 educators from around the country learned how to use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and more.

The conference held three days of workshops showing kindergarten through 12th grade teachers how to use agriculture to teach core subjects.  The conference received partial funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food & Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) and various other sponsors like The National Grange.


To Ensure the Best Outcomes for Rural Americans, Better Provisions Needed in Federal Broadband Plan

By Joan C. Smith, President, Potomac Grange #1

Today’s global economy demands that every participant have access to reliable, high-speed Internet in order to attain a level playing field to actively participate in the virtual business marketplace. Although rural America constitutes 15% of our total population, it is these men and women and families who keep food on our tables, fuel in our cars and provide energy for our homes and businesses. We owe it to them to implement the infrastructure to provide broadband internet services.   Americans living in rural areas still lack access to this vital resource.

Historically, rural areas have been the last to gain access to new conveniences. Broadband Internet, however, is not merely a convenience—it is essential to the business of agriculture, farming and ranching and nearly every other aspect of life in rural America. Rural communities are profoundly and adversely affected by poor access to high-speed Internet. Right now we have the chance to change that once and for all with appropriate reforms during Phase II of the Connect America Fund (CAF) plan; it’s up to the Federal Communications Commission to make the right choices.

There’s a lot at stake with the CAF initiative, so we must get it right; the consequences, good or bad, could stretch over decades. The National Grange has always advocated for updating rural infrastructure, as it did for the railroads and rural postal delivery, and now the emphases is with rural broadband Internet. Modern farming and ranching is like any other business; it relies heavily on technology and information. Dairy production and crop yields can be monitored and data shared in real time between different farms and the marketplace. Commodities prices can also be followed to help determine what crops to plant and when to harvest.

CAF was first developed in 2011, with the goal of connecting as many as 7 million un-served rural Americans by 2017 and all of the country’s 19 million un-served individuals living in rural areas by 2020; yet it still is not finalized and hasn’t even begun to be put into practice. CAF calls for $1.8 billion in funding, but how best to use this funding to effectively build out broadband infrastructure to rural areas is the real issue at hand. Regrettably, it seems significant changes need to be made to the existing plan during Phase II to deliver the most essential outcomes.

The plan is centered on more than doubling required download speed from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps. That would be fantastic, but it won’t make a big difference if other related aspects of the CAF plan are not improved as well.

Consider the way in which broadband coverage is measured. Right now, “Census blocks” are used, and as long as part of the block has access, it is counted as being covered. Yet within each “block” there are households left without the service, perpetuating the digital divide for those individuals and families while keeping up the appearance of closing the gap in access. Higher standards and independent verification of different providers’ broadband coverage claims can ameliorate this problem.

Moreover, unlicensed, fixed Wireless Internet Services, or WISPs, are being treated as suitable alternatives to real facilities-based fiber infrastructure, not true. The FCC’s regulatory assumption is that a WISP provides reliable connectivity to an entire area, but that just isn’t accurate. Capacity can be very limited in these networks, and there are issues like line-of-sight (LOS) and spectrum interference. WISPs really aren’t acceptable as primary infrastructure, but can be useful in a supporting function.

Providers still need better incentives to build out the infrastructure to reach rural areas, the most isolated, and hard-to-reach areas. Connect America Fund (CAF) resources can be used to share some of the financial burden for those efforts. Providers should be held to elevated but reasonable standards and need enough flexibility to handle the unexpected hindrances that are bound to occur with a project like this.

Finally, let’s extend the planned funding period to a full ten (10) years to ensure this work is steadily and properly carried out.

Perhaps most important, our families and communities can be strengthened through better access and higher download speeds. Jobs can be created and local economies improved. Services that eliminate some travel over large distances in many rural areas, such as telemedicine and distance learning, can save energy, develop a better rural workforce and improve quality of life. The majority of our nation’s farmers and ranchers are small business owners, internet utilization informs them of new agricultural technologies to enhance their production thereby providing higher yields to meet our growing demand for food, fiber and fuel.

Rural Americans need and deserve equal access to top-notch broadband Internet service. As a fifth-generation Granger myself, I urge the FCC to enact the “right rules and regulations” to get the most out of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II represents.

Joan C. Smith is President of Potomac Grange #1, Washington, DC. The National Grange, founded in 1867, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. With a strong history in grassroots activism, family values and community service, the Grange is part of more than 2,100 hometowns across the United States.