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Agriculture Helping you every day

AgMag Teacher Guide Issue 1

Why Ag in the Classroom?

Agriculture means survival. Over time, fewer and fewer people have close contact with farming and the total agricultural sector. They’re not aware of their own and society’s total dependence on agriculture. People must be agriculturally literate in order to make responsible decisions affecting this giant lifeline.

Teaching students to be agriculturally literate brings their learning to life. Helping students understand the farm-to-delivery connection is important in our consumer-driven society. That’s what the student Minnesota AgMag Series is all about.

About Your AgMag

The AgMag is a great supplement to your social studies, science, or language arts curriculum. The AgMag has particular appeal to the study of Minnesota history and geography. You’ll get three issues per school year: October, January, and March.

October AgMag Theme: Agriculture is Everywhere!

  • Overview of Agriculture
  • The three segments of agriculture
  • Avian influenza
  • Major Minnesota agriculture crops/growing areas
  • Rainfall
  • State symbols and agriculture
  • Minnesota History: Minnesota’s early farmers

January AgMag Theme: Agriculture, the Land, and You!

  • The interdependent world of agriculture
  • The five-stage cycle from farm to consumer
  • Global food connection
  • Plants and animals
  • Corn and Soybean Connection
  • Minnesota History: How agriculture has changed Minnesota’s landscape

March AgMag Theme: Caring for Our Natural Resources

  • The importance of caring for our natural resources
  • Caring for water
  • Caring for soil
  • Caring for the air
  • Pollinators
  • Making good food choices
  • Minnesota agriculture today
  • Minnesota History: New people in Minnesota agriculture

Integration Ideas

Social Studies

•Investigate how Minnesota land has changed over time. Challenge students to find historical accounts and photos.

•Find additional maps. A good source is the Food for Thought geography resource at www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc.

English Language Arts

•Ask students to identify key ideas and details and build their vocabulary through the AgMag’s informational text.

•Use agriculture as an inspiration for creative writing activities and group discussions. Ideas: trace family history to agriculture roots, life in an early Native American village or on a settler’s farm.

Science and Math

•Use the careers listed on page 2 to draw connections between agriculture and science.


Some words in your AgMag may be unfamiliar to your students. Many are defined in the articles. Words you might wish to pre-teach are:

AGRICULTURE: Growing plants and raising animals that people use for food, clothing and many other things every day. It’s also harvesting those farm products and getting them to us so we can use them.

Agriculture is the industry that grows, harvests, processes, and brings us food, fiber, fish, forests, sod, landscaping materials, and more. It uses soil, water, sun, and air to produce its products. The process starts on farms, orchards, gardens, and ranches with the growing and the harvesting of crops and livestock, then moves to processing plants before finally traveling as finished products to stores, farm markets, lumberyards, greenhouses, and more where consumers buy the products. Agriculture is connected in some way with almost everything we eat, wear, and use.

Quote from an Unknown Source: “Agriculture is not simply farming. It’s the supermarket, the equipment factory, the trucking system, the overseas shipping industry, the scientist’s laboratory, the houses we live in, and much more. It has an effect on the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the water we drink, and the food we eat.”

LIVESTOCK: Farm animals (including poultry) raised for food, clothing, and other products or uses.

INDUSTRY: The businesses, organizations and people that provide a particular product or service.

FIBER: The raw material from plants and animals, like cotton and wool, that are used to make cloth, rope, and more.

TURF: The upper surface of soil that is made up of grass and plant roots.

LANDSCAPING MATERIALS: Vegetative materials such as trees, shrubs, perennial plants, and annual plants used to decorate the outside of a home, business, or outdoor area.

PRODUCTION: Growing and harvesting plants or raising farm animals.

PROCESSING: Changing raw materials into many different things.

DISTRIBUTION: Getting products from farms to consumers.

LOGO: A sign or symbol that stands for a company.

SOIL TYPES: Soils are differentiated by the amount of sand, silt, and clay particles present. This is called soil texture. The soil texture affects the soil’s ability to hold moisture, nutrients, and air. These factors influence the conditions needed for plant growth.

TERRAIN: The physical features of an area including elevation, slope, vegetation, and surface material. Terrain affects water movement and drainage characteristics, and it can also affect weather and climate patterns.

GROWING SEASON: Period of the year that is warm enough for plants to grow.

PRECIPITATION: Rain and snow.

SUBSISTENCE FARMERS: Those who grow just enough food to feed themselves and their animals, and sometimes a little extra to use for trading and bartering.

DIVERSIFIED FARMS: Those that grow a variety of crops and/or livestock.

BONANZA FARMS: Large farms (usually from 1500-100,000 acres) that focus on one or two highly valuable crops. In Minnesota’s history, bonanza farms focusing on wheat were popular between 1875 and 1890. These farms became highly profitable through the use of new machinery and huge crews of cheap hired labor. Over time, the land was exhausted and the large farms were no longer profitable. By the 1920s, the last remnants of the bonanza period had faded away.

SPECIALIZED FARMS: Those that grow mainly one crop.

Minnesota Academic Standards Connection


Standard Code


Social Studies

Analyze the impact of geographic factors on the development of modern agricultural regions in Minnesota and the United States.

Social Studies

Locate, identify and describe major physical features in Minnesota; explain how

physical features and the location of resources affect settlement patterns and the growth of cities in different parts of Minnesota.

Social Studies

Describe how land was used during different time periods in Minnesota history; explain how and why land use has changed over time.


Create and analyze different kinds of maps of the student’s community and of Minnesota.


Compare the impact of individual decisions on natural systems.

English Language Arts

Explain events, procedures, ideas or concepts in a historical, scientific or technical text, including what happened and why based on specific information in the text.

English Language Arts

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

AgMag Cover (Social Studies)

Discussion Prompters

1. Agriculture is everywhere. What are the agriculture connections on this page? (Soap, food, windmill, tires, clothes)

2. Why is it important for all people to know about agriculture? (We all depend on agriculture for food, clothing and shelter. It’s important to understand how our needs are supplied as we make decisions about using land, protecting resources, keeping food safe, and much more.)

AgMag Pages 2 and 3 (Social Studies, Economics, Science)

  • What have you eaten or worn today that came from an animal? A tree or plant? The soil? Which came from beef or dairy cattle? Hogs? Poultry?
  • Why do we say agriculture depends on natural and renewable resources? (The things that are produced, processed and distributed all are dependent on soil, sun, air, and water in some way. Animals and plants are considered renewable resources.)
  • After students match the jobs to Production, Processing, and Distribution, discuss some of the careers that are unfamiliar to them. Guide students to see that each category includes many different and some overlapping roles.
  • Avian flu: If many poultry die from the flu, what might that mean to your family?
  • What do you think farmers can do to keep the flu from spreading?
  • If a farm’s poultry flock becomes ill, what do you think that means for the farmer?

NOTE: Regarding avian flu, the important message for students is that the industry, farmers, and government are all working to prevent another outbreak, and that all poultry are tested before going to market, and no bird with the flu will ever be in the store—so students are safe.

Crossword answers:

  • Plants
  • Environment
  • Animals
  • Soil
  • Sun
  • Air
  • Water

Agriculture field answers:

  • Processing
  • Production
  • Distribution

Answers to the Sequencing activity:

1. Gold’n Plump – chicken – packaged chicken

2. Hormel – hogs – pepperoni and ham

3. Minn-Dak Sugar – sugarbeets – sugar

4. John Deere – iron ore – steel farm machinery

5. Simplot – phosphate (rock ore) – plant food and fertilizer

6. Kemps – milk – ice cream

7. Pioneer – corn seed – ethanol

8. Gedney – cucumbers – pickles

9. General Mills – oats – granola bars

10. Faribault Woolen Mill - wool - blankets

AgMag Pages 4 and 5 (Geography, Map Skills)

  • What geographical features of Minnesota make it a good state for agriculture? (Variety of terrain and soil types, climate, rainfall, weather.)
  • What makes the Red River Valley (Northwest area) such a high-producing crop area? (Rich, fertile soils, adequate moisture, large flat areas for mechanized agriculture.)
  • Which of the four regions has a main crop that people may not always think of as agriculture? Explain your answer. (The Northeast area. In the past, natural forests were cut down and not replanted. Today, forests are replenished and trees are considered a renewable crop.)
  • In what weather situations can farmers do things to protect their crops and animals? (Farmers carefully plan when to plant crops to avoid weather that is too cold or wet. They might irrigate crops during dry conditions. They harvest ripe crops quickly to avoid damage to crops that can be harmed by fall frosts. They control the temperature in animal barns and shelter animals from inclement weather.) When do they have no control at all? (Violent winds and hail, extreme heat and drought, flooding, wildfires, late spring and early fall frosts, etc. are all beyond human control.)
  • Discuss annual precipitation as an average of data collected over many years. Remind students of weather events such as drought and flooding. What effect do these have on farmers? How could deviations eventually impact our food supplies and prices?

Minnesota Grown answers:

  • B
  • D
  • C
  • A

Trivia answer: Llamas

Find It on the Map Answers:

Word scramble answers:

Soil types




Growing season

Minnesota Rainfall answers:

  • Northwest gets the least rainfall. Southeast gets the most (and parts of northeast)
  • Specific crops need different amounts of moisture
  • Above normal: Crops drown out or wash away. Yield is reduced. Below normal: Drought causes crops to wither or die. Yield is reduced.
  • Hay and Pastureland: Central/Southeast

Sugarbeets: Northwest

Corn and Soybeans: Southwest

Forest and Pine Trees: Northeast

Wheat: Northwest

Name the Crop: Sugarbeet

Main Growing Area: Northwest

AgMag Page 6 (Social Studies, History)

This section covers state symbols, including the current state seal that appears on Minnesota’s state flag. This seal has had some controversy attached to it, primarily around the image of the white man plowing his field in contrast to the Native American man riding a horse and carrying a spear. Concern has been expressed that the seal represents the white man as peaceful and concerned only with his field, while the Native American could be interpreted as promoting violence (via the spear), or that he is turning his back on and ceding his land to the white man. There have been many discussions over the decades at the state government level about ways to redesign the seal to make it more accurately reflect Minnesota history. If you’re interested in incorporating that discussion into your classroom, please visit the following sites:

Star Tribune: As Long As We’re Discussing Flags, What About Minnesota’s?

History of the Minnesota State Flag and Seal

  • How do symbols communicate ideas more quickly than written words?
  • What is meant by the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words“?
  • What are some slogans or sayings that represent Minnesota? (“Land of 10,000 Lakes,” “The Gopher State,” “The North Star State“ or the “Star of the North”.
  • Take the Minnesota State Symbols game quiz on the Minnesota House of Representatives website: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/StateFair3/

State symbol answers:

Wild rice is hand-harvested in lakes and marshes. Cultivated wild rice is planted in water-filled paddies and harvested by machines.

Honeycrisp apples were developed at the University of Minnesota.

Milk, cheese, cream, ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, kefir, whipped cream

True or False answers:

All are true.

Name the Symbol answers:

State Flower: Ladyslipper

State Fish: Walleye

State Bird: Loon

AgMag Page 7 (History, Social Studies)

Imagine life as an early immigrant or Native American family. You have no electricity. Your water is drawn by pail from a well. Your bathroom is an outhouse. Your only transportation is a horse and wagon, or a canoe. Most of your family’s time is taken just getting the food, clothing, and shelter you need to live day to day. How do you get your food? Cook it? Wash your clothes? Take a bath? Keep your home warm in winter? What are some of the children’s jobs in the family? What would you do to have fun? What is the hardest part of your life? The best part?

AgMag Page 8 (Social Studies)

  • Why are different crops eaten in different locations of the world? (Food crops need different soils, climate and terrain in order to thrive. People use their local grains in most of their meals.) Major food crops worldwide are corn, wheat, rice, potatoes, cassava, and soybeans.

Minnesota AgBrag answers:

  • China
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Japan

Note to Teachers:

Pre/Post Quizzes

As you begin using AgMag in the classroom, MAITC asks that you have your students take the quiz before reviewing the materials, then take the quiz again as a post test once they’ve completed AgMag. These quizzes are on the AgMag website (directions below), and students can take the tests online. Students will see their score when they complete the test, and the scores will be submitted anonymously to MAITC. This helps MAITC see what students are learning through the AgMag and if we’re achieving the program’s mission.

Thank you!

Test Location: Visit the Current AgMag Quiz page!

AgK - Plant Animal or Both