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Agriculture Helping you every day

AgMag Teacher Guide Issue 2

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.

Integration Ideas

Social Studies

  • Use the information from Minnesota Agriculture: Big Changes in Minnesota Agriculture (page 7) as the start to creating a historical timeline that illustrates the role of agriculture in Minnesota History.
  • Focus on a Minnesota crop such as corn or soybeans and have students research how production techniques have changed throughout history. Examples include: machinery and equipment, research and development of new genetics, herbicides and pesticides, soil and water improvement, and conservation techniques.

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: Stories from the points of view of plants or animals that depend on humans; predictions for agriculture in 2050 (or future years); letters to children in other countries with descriptions about agriculture here and questions about agriculture there.

Science and Math

  • Identify the STEM involved in producing corn and soybeans in Minnesota (pages 4-5) and using the components of the soybean seeds and corn kernels in the products we use every day.
  • Utilize and expand the graph and chart on page 8.


Some words in your AgMag may be unfamiliar to your students. These words often appear in bold type or in italics. Many are defined in the articles. Words you might wish to pre-teach are:

AGRICULTURE CYCLE: The steps required to get an agricultural product from the farm to the consumer.

BIODEGRADE: Items that can be broken down into very small parts through the action of living things like microorganisms.

BIOFUEL: A fuel made from plant matter rather than fossil fuels. Examples include ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans.

CASH CROPS: Crops grown to sell for money rather than being used directly by the farmer.

COMBINE: A farm machine that harvests grain crops.

COMMERCIAL FERTILIZERS: Any organic or inorganic material which is added to soil to provide one or more plant nutrients.

CONSUMERS: Someone who buys and uses goods.

CROP PROTECTION CHEMICALS: Chemicals used to prevent and treat plant diseases and pests.

DEVELOPED COUNTRIES: Countries with advanced economies and technology.

DIVERSIFIED FARMING: Raising a variety of crops and animals on a farm.

ETHANOL: A fuel made from corn.

GENETICS: The study of genes and heredity.

HYBRID SEEDS: Seeds produced by cross-pollinated plants.

INTERDEPENDENT: Two or more people or things that are dependent on each other.

LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRIES: Countries that do not have strong economies or technological infrastructures, and can also have poor health systems.

RAW MATERIALS: A basic material that has not yet been processed into something else.

NATURAL AND RENEWABLE RESOURCES: Resources that can be replaced or grown again if they are used.

POPULOUS: Areas, like cities, where there are many people living close together.

Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards

Minnesota Academic Standards Connection 


Standard Code


Social Studies

Describe the productivity of a resource and describe ways to increase it.

Social Studies

Describe the movement of goods and services, resources and money through markets in a market-based economy.

Social Studies

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

Social Studies

Identify the major Minnesota political figures, ideas and industries that have shaped or continue to shape Minnesota and the United States today.


Describe how plants and animal structures and their functions provide an advantage for survival in a given natural system.


Create and use rulers, tables, spreadsheets and graphs to describe patterns of change and solve problems.

English Language Arts

Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

AgMag Cover (Social Studies)

  1. What makes “Agriculture, the Land, and You” a good title for this page? 
    • (Each of the products mentioned in the article and many shown in the photos started out with a connection to the land, the soil. They end up being used by people.) 
  2. What connections to agriculture do you see in these photos?
    • (Food [like soybeans and the many kinds in the shopping cart], clothing [sheep provide wool for clothing], sports equipment [the leather glove is made from animal hide, and the inside of the ball contains wool])

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

  1. How many things in your classroom came from agriculture?
  2. 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? From pigs? Corn or soybeans?
  3. Why do we say agriculture depends on natural and renewable resources?
    • (The agricultural products 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.)
  4. What foods do NOT come from plants and animals? 
    • (Mushrooms and yeast are fungi, not plants.)

Activity Answers

Agricultural Cycle

  1. Producing
  2. Processing
  3. Distributing
  4. Marketing
  5. Consuming

Matching and Naming

  • Producing = Planting, growing, harvesting
  • Processing = Cleaning, changing into useful forms, packaging
  • Distribution = Trucking, shipping
  • Marketing = Advertising, displaying
  • Consuming = You eat or use it

Photos top to bottom: 1, 5, 2, 4, 3


Products with more steps use more energy, especially in processing. Example: Fresh potatoes are picked, cleaned, graded, packaged, and ready for consumers. Potato chips add slicing, baking or frying, seasoning, and inspection to the cycle.

Sun, air, water, and soil are the resources from which all agricultural products develop.

Student Pages 4 and 5 (Science, Social Studies, Economics)

  1. Crops and livestock are the foundation of Minnesota agriculture. How is our ability to grow so much corn and soybeans connected to Minnesota’s thriving livestock industry?
    • (Corn and soybean crops provide the basic ingredients of livestock feed. Locally grown feed is more convenient and economical for livestock operations. Farmers who grow soybeans and corn have a ready market for their crops.)
  2. How do biofuels (ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans) help ease pressure on the environment?
    • (Unlike petroleum, which has to be mined from the earth, corn and soybeans are renewable resources. This fuel burns cleaner which also enhances air quality.)
  3. Soybean and corn farmers in southern Minnesota are usually able to plant and harvest their crops sooner than farmers in northern Minnesota. Why?
    • (Southern Minnesota is closer to the equator, so weather is warmer.)

Activity Answers

Group Labeling

  1. Oil Products
  2. Meal and Flour Products
  3. Other Soybean and Corn Foods
  4. Industrial Products
  1. What Do You Think? Any of the items from Group D
  2. Read the food label
  3. Protein, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin B-6, magnesium, iron

Trivia Question

C. Protein.

Student Page 6 (Social Studies, Science)

  1. What does the population trend of the future (more people in cities and less-developed countries) mean for agriculture?
    • (Production must keep increasing in order to feed everyone. Transportation and distribution will be even more important than they are today. Growing urban populations will use resources in greater quantities than the rural population which produces their food. Conserving land, water, and energy resources and using new technologies to increase production will grow in importance. Marketing new products will continue to be a growing business.)
  2. Because of war, drought, political instability, high food prices, poverty, and joblessness, hunger now affects one in six people in the world. (Estimate is from the United Nations.) The main reasons for hunger in the United States are caused by poverty and unemployment. How can we help hungry people?
    • (Donate to food shelves. Explore local resources.)
  3. Why might food grown in a country not be easily available to local people?
    • (Exporting food is big business in many parts of the world. If money can be made by selling locally grown food to others, it may not be readily available to local people.)

Activity Answer

Use an atlas to be sure students drew the correct connections.

Student Page 7 (History, Social Studies)

  1. What does the population trend since 1950—more people in cities—mean for agriculture?
    • (More farmland is taken out of production and developed for urban uses. There are more consumers than producers. Production must keep increasing in order to feed everyone. Transportation and distribution of food from farm to table are even more important. Growing urban populations use more food, clothing, fuel, water, and other resources than rural areas. Conserving land, water, and energy resources and taking advantage of new technologies to increase food production will be even more important in the future. Developing, marketing, advertising, and selling new products becomes bigger business than ever.)
  2. After looking up and defining hybrid seeds, why do you think hybrids are so important in crop production?
    • (A hybrid is developed from crossbreeding and cross-pollination of two different plants to make a new and improved plant. For example, plant breeders develop hybrids that can resist drought, grow in harsher weather, produce greater yields, and so on. Hybrids also give us a variety of new products. One example is the SweeTango apple, a hybrid of Zestar and Honeycrisp apples. The University of Minnesota is a national leader in developing hybrid apples.)

Student Page 8 (Social Studies, Math)

Activity Answers

Talking Corn, and Soybeans

Use a United States map to check the students’ placement of corn and soybean states.

What can you tell us about where corn and soybeans are grown? They are often grown in the same states. (This region is commonly called “the corn belt” because it includes most of the top producers of corn. And with corn comes soybeans. The region has favorable climate and terrain, rainfall, and fertile soils for producing both of these commodities. Abundant corn and soybeans make the region a leading producer of livestock, too.)

World Population Graph

The population growth will be much faster in less developed countries.

Reproducible Answers

Why Are They Hungry?


5. Transportation

10. Crop

12. Drought

13. Spoiling


1. Stealing

2. Wars

3. Government

4. Poverty

6. Storage

7. Trade

8. Processing

9. Floods

11. Pests

The two main causes of hunger in the United States

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment

Go Figure

  • 25 pods X 3 beans = 75 beans
  • There are about 90,000 beans in a bushel.

Corny Scramble

  • Corn flakes
  • Ice cream
  • Soda
  • Peanut butter
  • Ketchup
  • Salad dressing
  • Jelly
  • Marshmallow
  • Margarine
  • Taco chips


  • As the kernel is heated, the water inside gets hot, expanding and building pressure. The harder surface around the soft starchy center finally explodes. Popcorn!

Smoothie question

  • Tofu

Corny Counting

  • An ear of corn has an even number of kernel rows. Average number of kernels is 600-800 per ear.

AgK - Plant Animal or Both