Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom logo AgMag logo

Agriculture Helping you every day

AgMag Jr. Issue 2 Teacher's Guide Winter 2016-17

Started in 1985, MAITC is a unique public/private partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the MAITC Foundation. The program goal is to advance agricultural literacy to all learners, especially K-12 students and educators. MAITC's mission is "€œto promote understanding and awareness of the importance of agriculture."

We are pleased to offer the free AgMag Jr. series. The AgMag Jr. is written and targeted at first grade, although it can be used in kindergarten and second grade as well (for older elementary students, MAITC offers a separate publication called AgMag). However, please note there is NOT different content written for each grade, so using in multiple grades can be repetitive. The magazine is sent early in the school year for beginning readers. Teachers can use it when the reading level of their students matches the reading level of the magazine. We publish two issues each school year, in October and January. Enjoy!

The AgMag Jr. series is made possible due to the generous financial support of AgStar Financial Services, a long-time supporter of the MAITC education program.

Why Ag in the Classroom?

Previously, people were very aware of the role agriculture played in their lives: It meant survival. Nearly everyone- men, women and children- worked the land.

Agriculture still means survival. That will never change. But as time goes on, fewer people have close contact with farming. They're not aware of their own- and the nation's- total dependence on agriculture. Think about it:
Fewer than 2 out of 100 Americans work directly in production agriculture (farming). This small group meets the food and fiber needs of the nation as well as many people abroad.
Agriculture, along with its related occupations, is the nation's largest industry. It generates billions of dollars each year; one out of every five jobs depends on it in some way.

Agriculture is constantly changing. But one thing remains the same: agriculture is a vital part of your day! Even as early as the primary grades, it's important for students to gain an understanding and appreciation for the ways agriculture touches their lives, each and every day. Food doesn't magically appear in the grocery store or on the kitchen table. It all starts with agriculture.

Minnesota Academic Standards Connection

Subject Standard Code Benchmark
Social Studies Identify goods and services that could satisfy a specific need or want.
Social Studies Use relative location words and absolute location words to identify the location of a specific place, explain why or when it is important to use absolute versus relative location.
Science Observe and compare plants and animals.
Science Identify the external parts of a variety of plants and animals.
Science Describe and sort animals into groups in many ways, according to their physical characteristics and behaviors.
English Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas or pieces of information in a text.
Language Arts  


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: "€œAgriculture 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."

BACTERIA: Microorganisms that grow and multiply quickly in warm temperatures. Bacteria is everywhere; some bacteria are helpful, other bacteria can be harmful.

CROPS: Plants that are grown and harvested to feed people and animals or to make other things people need.

FARMER: A person who lives and works on a farm (also called producer). Farming is a career; farmers make money by selling their farm products.

FIBER: The raw product used for fabric, such as cotton and wool. Wood is also a fiber, used for making things.

HOMOGENIZATION: Mixing the cream in milk with the thinner, watery parts so they stay blended together. If not homogenized, cream rises to the top.

PASTEURIZATION: Milk is heated to kill germs and make it safe for people to drink. Heating the milk also slows the growth of bacteria so the milk does not spoil as quickly.

POULTRY: "Bird" types of farm animals raised for meat and eggs. Chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are kinds of poultry.

RAW MILK: Milk as it comes directly from the cow.

SHELF LIFE: The time a product can stay in the store before it starts to lose freshness. Milk shelf life dates are printed on the cartons and bottles. The milk will still be fresh for a few days after the date shown. Shoppers need to check shelf life dates on the milk they buy so they know it is still good to use.

AgMag Jr. Cover (Science, Social Studies)

This story introduces the concept that not all foods and animals are grown in the same places, nor are they all sources of food for us. Students will be asked to think about what each plant and animal shown gives us. Things like zebras and lions are not food sources here. The rest of the plants and animals shown do provide food for us, and there is a list of potential answers below.

  1. The activity on the cover asks the students about foods not grown in Minnesota, such as pineapples, peanuts, and bananas. Some of your students may have never thought about what is grown here and what isn't. Before they do that activity, talk to them about how Minnesota weather is too cold for some kinds of foods to grow, or Minnesota doesn't have the right kind of soil. Get them to think about things that need warmer climates (citrus fruits, etc.) than we have here.
  2. What is the difference between farm animals, zoo or wild animals, and pets?
    • (Farm animals are raised to provide products that make human lives better. Farm animals give meat, milk, eggs, fiber [wool], hide [leather], feathers, and more. Some give help with work or transportation [horses, oxen, mules]. Animal fats are used in making lotions, soaps, film, plastics, medicines, and more.)
    • (Zoo animals live in public places for people to see and study. Wild animals are an important part of the natural world environment wherever they live. Sometimes people go on trips and safaris to see wild animals in their own settings.)
    • (Pets are companion animals, kept for the pleasure and company they provide.)
  3. Why are zebras and lions not raised on Minnesota farms? (They do not provide food or clothing products. They are not easily tamed, so may be dangerous. Minnesota's cold winter climates are too harsh for them.)

Find It! activity answers:

  • Circled Plants: Apple, pepper, sunflower, potato, corn
  • Circled Animals: Goat, dairy cow, chicken, horse, sheep, pig, turkey

Think and Write activity answers:


  • Goat (milk, meat, goatskin)
  • Cow (milk, meat, leather)
  • Chicken (eggs, meat, feathers)
  • Horse (rides for pleasure and transportation, help with work, entertainment (rodeos), horsehide leather)
  • Sheep (wool, meat, sheepskin, oils, occasionally milk)
  • Pig (meat, pigskin)
  • Turkey (meat, feathers)


  • Sunflower (seeds, oil)
  • Pepper (food)
  • Apple (fruit, applesauce, juice, cider)
  • Corn (food for people and animals, corn oil, corn syrup, ethanol)
  • Pineapple (fruit, juice)
  • Peanut (nuts, peanut oil)
  • Banana (fruit)
  • Potato (food such as French fries, chips, etc.)

Pages 2-3

Moo to You (Science, Social Studies)

Guide students through the story of milk, from the farm to their tables. Added discussion items:

On the Farm

  1. How do farmers take good care of their cows?
    • (Cows are kept comfortable and safe from the weather in barns. They have clean bedding [straw, shredded newspapers, mats, waterbeds, sand, etc.] to lie on. They get good nutritious feed and fresh water. If they are sick, the farmer may call an animal doctor [veterinarian] to care for them. In nice weather, they go outdoors to exercise and graze.)
  2. What do cows eat?
    • (In warmer months, they graze in pastures and eat grass. In colder months, they eat hay [dried grasses], silage [chopped corn], and haylage [chopped hay]. The farmer gives them a special feed mixture called a ration all year round, which is made of ground grains with minerals and nutrients added. A cow may drink enough water to fill a bathtub every day!)
  3. What is the farmer doing with the milking machine?
    • (She is milking cows. The cow's milk is stored in a body part under the cow called an udder. The udder has four teats. The farmer carefully washes the cow's udder and teats before milking. The milking machine attaches to the teats. A steady pulsating pressure gently squeezes the milk out of each teat, similar to when a child sucks his/her thumb. It does not hurt the cow at all. The milk goes through the tubes you see in the picture to a pipe that takes it into a cooling tank.)
  4. Do all cattle give milk?
    • (No, only a cow that has had a calf gives milk.)
  5. How often are cows milked? How much milk do they give?
    • (Most are milked twice or three times a day. The amount of milk a cow gives depends on her breed and how long it has been since she had a calf. Holsteins give the most milk. Cows give the most milk after a new calf is born. A good cow will give seven or more gallons of milk a day.)
  6. The cows on this page are dairy cows. Other cattle, called beef cattle, are raised for meat.
  7. People around the world drink milk from more than just cows. What are some of these animals?
    • (Goats, bison, camels, reindeer, sheep, water buffalo, moose, donkeys, horses, and yaks)

On the Road

Tank trucks come to the farm and pump the milk out of the farmer's cooling tank. The driver tests the milk to make sure it is healthy and clean. Then it goes into the refrigerated tank on the truck. The tank truck visits many farms to pick up milk, and then hauls its load to a processing plant.

  1. Why must milk be kept cool all the way from the farm to you?
    • (Milk spoils and sours quickly if it is not kept cool. Tiny bacteria grow fast in warmer temperatures, causing the milk to spoil. Farmers, truckers, and plant workers do their part, but we need to keep milk cool in our refrigerators at home, too.)
  2. Does all milk go to a processing plant?
    • (Yes, but not all plants put milk into bottles and cartons. Some plants use milk to make ice cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, or other dairy products.

At the Plant

When milk gets to the processing plant, it is tested again to make sure it is safe from harmful things before it is unloaded. It is strained through a filter to make sure it is clean. It is heated to kill any germs (pasteurized) and mixed so the cream in the milk stays blended instead of rising to the top (homogenized). Finally, it is piped through large machines that fill cartons and bottles. The milk is then loaded into refrigerated trucks and hauled to stores.

  1. Why is it so important to keep checking and testing the milk?
    • (Everyone from small babies to great-grandparents will drink and use the milk. It must be clean and healthy so no one gets sick.)
  2. Everyone who handles milk must keep all the milk tanks, tubes, pipes, and machines absolutely clean. Why is this so important?
    • (Milk spoils and becomes unsafe for people to use if it picks up germs from unclean equipment. Milk equipment is cleaned with hot, soapy water many times a day.)

At the Store

  1. Why are there so many different kinds of milk at the store?
    • (People want different kinds and sizes of milk.)
  2. Why are there dates on milk cartons and boxes?
    • (The dates tell us how long the milk will be fresh and good to use. If the date has gone by, we should not buy the milk. See SHELF LIFE under GLOSSARY.)

You Drink the Milk

  1. What kinds of milk do you like to drink?
    • (Different kinds include skim,1%, 2%, whole milk, flavored, buttermilk, dry/powdered, evaporated, canned, and more.)
  2. What foods can you name that are made from milk?
    • (Cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, sour cream, frozen yogurt, etc.)
  3. Why are milk and dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt healthy for you?
    • (They are a good source of nutrition, with calcium for strong bones, teeth, and muscles. They also have protein for healthy hair, skin, blood, and more. Milk has added vitamin D. Children should have at least three servings from the dairy group every day.)

Draw It!

Have students draw pictures of foods made from milk.


Have students count the number of times the word "milk" is used on pages 2-3. (The answer is 16- or 17, if you include "milking" and 18 if you include the one they write.)

Suggested activity:

Milk is a good basis for an extra math activity around liquid measures. If you can, bring in liquid measuring tools in cup, pint, quart, and gallon measures. Ask the students to guess how many cups fit in a pint, how many pints in a quart, etc. Then have them fill the cup and pour it into the pint and so on. You can also ask students how many cups of milk they drink each day and help them figure out if that's a pint or quart or more.

Page 4

Farm Animals (Science)

This page shows some of Minnesota's important farm animals. Both dairy and beef cows are shown. Dairy animals are raised to produce milk, but they are also eaten as meat. Beef cattle have heavier, more muscular bodies and are raised for meat. The cattle shown here are the most common dairy and beef breeds in the United States. The milk cow is a Holstein, and the beef cattle are Black Angus.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Discuss each animal, what it eats and what it needs to be comfortable, safe, and healthy. You talked earlier about how farmers take good care of their cows. How do they care for each of these animals?
    • (Nutritious food, fresh water at all times, warm shelters, protection against predators for smaller animals, vet care for animals, etc.)
  2. What are the differences between mammals and birds?
    • (Mammals have fur or hair, bear live babies, and produce milk for their young, etc. Birds have feathers. Most can fly. Their young hatch from eggs, etc.)

Farm Animals activity answers

  • How many mammals? 5 (including the beef cattle)
  • How many birds? 2

Page 5

Plants Have Many Parts (Science)

This page shows the different parts plants can have. Discuss what role each part plays.

Seeds: The beginning of a plant. Seeds carry the initial nutrients needed for the plant to grow. When the seed sprouts, roots form to start growing the plant.

Roots: The lower part of the plant. While this usually occurs under the ground, there are some plants that have roots that grow above the ground. The roots anchor the plant to help keep it from being uprooted by wind or rain, and they also help provide nourishment to the plant by absorbing water and nutrient from the soil. Some vegetables grow underground and are known as root vegetables, like beets and carrots.

Stems: Most stems grow above ground and produce branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. There are some plants that produce stems below the ground, such as the potato. Stems also bring nutrients and water from the roots to the rest of the plant.

Leaves: Leaves turn sunlight into food through photosynthesis.

Flowers: Flowers can be the beginning of the fruit. They're the point at which pollination takes place, which allows the plant to produce seeds and sometimes a fruit which holds the seeds.

Fruit: The part of a plant that has seeds in it, making the growth cycle a circle.

Note: If you want to add some reading to this part, the book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens is a humorous, age-appropriate book to help reinforce concepts of plant parts.

Discussion Prompts

  1. How do the plant parts work together? (Answers above in parts descriptions.)
  2. Think of some of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Do they grow under the ground or above it? Do you eat the seeds?

Which Plant Part Does What? Activity Answers

  1. Stems
  2. Roots
  3. Seeds
  4. Fruit
  5. Flowers
  6. Leaves

Page 6

Minnesota (Science, Social Studies)

This page will introduce students to the idea that not all crops can be grown in all parts of the state.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Why is weather in northern Minnesota colder than in southern Minnesota?
    • (Northern Minnesota is closer to the always-cold North Pole. Southern Minnesota is closer to the always-hot equator.)
  2. Minnesota has some very hilly areas and some flatter areas. Which would be best for growing farm crops?
    • (Flatter)
    • Why? (Farm machinery such as tractors, plows, and combines, needed to grow crops, cannot operate well on hilly surfaces. Soil erosion is a problem, too.)
  3. Rainfall is very important to crop farmers. What happens to their crops if there is not enough rain?
    • (Plants wither and die.)
    • If there is too much rain? (Crops can drown, wash away, or be destroyed by floods.)
  4. Why is it a good idea to raise animals in areas where there are field crops like corn and soybeans?
    • (Farm animals eat field crops. It is easier and costs less to have their foods nearby.)
  5. Some farmers raise trees as a crop. How do trees help us?
    • (They give shade in the summer and protect against wind and snow in the winter. Some are holiday trees. Tree products include wood for building homes, furniture, and much more: Pulp for paper; sap for maple syrup; nuts and fruits to eat; shelter for birds and wild animals. Trees are beautiful to look at. They help hold soil from blowing away. They give off air [oxygen] for us to breathe and filter pollution out of air to make it cleaner.)
  6. What city is our state capital? Put a dot to show where St. Paul is located. What part of the state is it in?

Minnesota activity answers

All agriculture involves growing food, fiber, and forests, but what grows where varies greatly, not only from one region of the country to another, but within our own state. Minnesota's soil types, weather (growing season), rainfall, and terrain all play a part.

Color the Direction answers

  • Wheat: West
  • Cows: East
  • Pigs: South
  • Corn: South
  • Trees: North

Map It answers

Students may need help with questions 1 and 2.


  • Coldest: North
  • Warmest: South

Reproducible Activities

Ag A-B-C's

  • Field Crops: Corn, peas, soybeans, sugarbeets, wheat
  • Farm Animals: Cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, sheep
  • Special Crops: Apples, flowers, sod, trees, vegetables
  • Farm Machinery: Computer, corn picker, farm truck, plow, tractor

Geese, chickens, turkeys, and ducks all fit in a group of two-legged animals called_______.

Answer: Poultry

Chick Maze


Butter in a Jar Activity


  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Plastic or glass jar with lid or 2-ounce plastic cups with lids (from restaurant supply store, craft store, or your cafeteria)

Directions: Pour cream into a jar or small plastic cups. Small cups work great because everyone can make their own butter. Fill each container 2/3 full, being sure to leave some air space. Make sure the lid is secure. Shake briskly. The more cream in the container, the longer it takes. In 2-ounce jars, butter forms in 5-10 minutes. After butter forms, it is usually salted. Enjoy on crackers or bread.

Adapted from Field Guide to Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

AgK - Plant Animal or Both