Sept./Oct. 2012 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Kate Campbell
California farms inspire stories of fact and fantasy.
Along with providing food for the family dinner table, California farms and ranches also provide the state's schoolchildren with food for thought. Each year the "Imagine this…" story writing contest receives about 10,000 entries from students in grades three through eight, and all are based on some facet of agriculture.
The contest, which has been hosted by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom for nearly two decades, is recognized statewide as an innovative educational tool.
"We've found that the contest helps students enhance their research and writing skills while they learn about various agricultural topics and the important role agriculture plays in their lives," said Judy Culbertson, the foundation's executive director. "Students have the opportunity to read about those topics through the stories written by past state-winning student authors."
"Imagine this..." offers awards for the top regional stories, as well as for statewide winners. The top six stories are illustrated through the artistic talents of high school graphic design, art and photography students, and are then turned into a softcover book. (See Book Review.)
The winning tales from 2011—which range from the story of a pluot in search of its family roots to the busy days of honeybees—offer unique perspectives on the exciting and complex world of agriculture.
"Under guidance of their classroom teachers, children from communities throughout the state, many of them in urban areas, discover where their food and fiber comes from," Culbertson said. "It allows them to personally make the link to the people and the practices that supply so many of our daily needs.
"Year after year, it's amazing to see the range of creativity the children bring to the project."
Why "Imagine this..." matters
More than 7 million California students are fed, clothed and housed with products grown on California farms and in its forests. California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom helps students and teachers gain an understanding of how agriculture helps provide for life's essentials.
More information about the foundation and the "Imagine this..." contest is available online at www.LearnAboutAg.org.
Here is a little more information about the 2011 "Imagine this..." winners, including a summary of each story. Click on the links for full text of the stories, as well as videos of the authors and their teachers.
"Friends in the Garden"
3rd grade, Gratton Elementary School
Teacher: Sheila Amaral
Illustrated by Central Catholic High School, Modesto
Author Morgan Gravatt
Morgan befriends ladybugs in her school garden and puts them in a jar to show classmates. But she finds there's more to this helpful insect than bright color and playful songs. Ladybugs help protect plants from insects that can damage gardens and farm crops. Eventually, Morgan has to answer this important question: "If you were a ladybug, where would you want to live?" Read Friends in the Garden.
"Team Hamburger Support"
4th grade, Gratton Elementary School
Teacher: Pennie Segna
Illustrated by Woodland High School, Woodland
Author Matthew Reis
Joaquin is a Central Valley boy—likes basketball and loves junk food. He learns a thing or two about healthy eating, tasty food choices and the great stuff that comes from local farms. Stocked with healthy ingredients, he draws on the support of Team Hamburger and joins a winning lineup of vitamins and minerals for good health and energy. Read Team Hamburger Support.
"Honeybee Worker Day"
5th grade, St. Anthony School
Teacher: Susie Henriques
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento
Author Grace Reyes
The new honeybee recruits are off and buzzing on Honeybee Worker Day, pollinating trees throughout the almond orchard and collecting nectar. One way or another, these jobs help provide food for people. Back and forth, hive to tree, these worker bees go all day for weeks at a time, only to face a bittersweet truth—their life cycle must come to an end. Read Honeybee Worker Day.
Illustrator Kiah Turner
"Patty Pear on an Adventure"
6th grade, Scott Valley Jr. High
Teacher: Tracy Dickinson
Illustrated by Delta High School, Clarksburg
Author Juliana Gamache
One lonely pear sets out to find what's happened to her family. The quest takes her on a winding path, where well-meaning townspeople lead Patty not to pears, but pairs—running shoes, pliers, eyeglasses. But all is well: Patty not only finds her family, but also gets the chance to educate residents about pears—the juicy, high-fiber, vitamin-rich fruit grown by the tree-full on California farms. Read Patty Pear on an Adventure.
"The Proud Pluot"
7th grade, St. Stanislaus Parish School
Teacher: Judee Sani
Illustrated by Sheldon High School, Elk Grove
Author Nick O'Brien
Pluots have a short history. Apples and pears have stories and songs written about them, but not pluots. What are they? Where did this unique fruit come from? Like star-crossed lovers, plums and apricots started going together and one day resulted in pluots. It's a love story that includes antioxidants and vitamins, as well as a blush of color. Read The Proud Pluot.
Illustrators Karolyn Chao and Stefanie Serino
"Chilies for Nina"
8th grade, San Gabriel Christian School
Los Angeles County
Teacher: Jessica Shunkey
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento
Author Sarah Rutzen
Nina finds a disappointing surprise on her birthday. The chilies she and her grandmother had planned to put in Nina's favorite enchiladas are missing from the backyard garden. Not to worry, her abuela says, and off they go to the farmers market. They find chilies, all right, and so much more. When they get back home and open the door—surprise! Read Chilies for Nina.
Illustrator Stephanie Bunnell