Sept./Oct. 2009 California Country magazine
Story by Kate Campbell
Students provide their perspective about how and why they appreciate agriculture.
Tales with wit and charm tell of life on the farm
Whether it's talking fruit, an evil queen or a young cowboy growing up, this year's winners of the annual "Imagine this..." story writing contest offer tales with wit and charm—all inspired by agriculture. Hosted by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, the contest generated more than 10,000 stories from children in grades three through eight.
As each school year begins, students throughout the state apply their creativity to storytelling, hurrying to meet the Nov. 1 deadline.
"When our judging team gathers each year to review the top stories, we're always blown away at the creativity of these kids," said Judy Culbertson, the foundation's executive director. "Although the overarching contest theme—California agriculture—remains constant, each contest season brings new ideas, fresh characters and unique perspectives.
"For example, a third-grade student from San Bernardino County writing about oranges has a completely different concept of agriculture than a Humboldt County eighth-grader growing up in a logging town or a Central Valley fifth-grader who passes a dairy on his or her bus ride to school every day," Culbertson said.
"But, students also are influenced by their parents, friends, life experiences, climate, even current events, and these views are often portrayed in the stories."
The primary sponsor of this year's contest was the Wal-Mart Foundation. Amelia Neufeld, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. community affairs manager, said, "We're honored to support an organization dedicated to showcasing the importance of the state's agriculture community and helping grow the imagination of California schoolchildren."
Winning stories are further enhanced through the artistic interpretations of graphic design, art and photography students in Sacramento-area high schools. Stories and art are joined together in a handsome softcover book that's available for purchase.
For a sample of the wit and whimsy percolating in California classrooms, here are previews of the winning stories from the 2008 "Imagine this..." writing contest.
Kate Campbell is a reporter for California Country. She can be reached at 800-698-FARM or email@example.com.
"Who's More Important... Betsy or Todd?"
3rd grade, Northwood Elementary
Teacher: Helen Reavis
A farmer and a milk cow shake things up
A trip to the milking barn raises an important philosophical question for both farmer and cow. The two make a bet. Whoever can prove they help each other more—while also helping the Earth—wins the bet. Sorting through the contributions of each leads to an interesting conclusion.
"My story is based on a family trip to an Illinois dairy farm before we moved to Napa, but since then I've learned a lot more about the role agriculture plays in our lives."
"Oliver's Family Tree"
5th grade, Our Lady of the Assumption
Teacher: Mary Pat Jones
Oliver from Oroville had a big problem. He didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up. There were so many choices: olive oil, canned olives, sliced olives and pressed into face cream. Eventually, Oliver finds his true meaning and life's work in an Italian restaurant.
"I was surprised to learn that olives are used in many products, including face creams!"
"The Great Veggie Championship"
4th grade, Neil Cummins Elementary
Teacher: Linnea O'Brien
The aroma of victory
Based in Gilroy, "Garlic Capital of the World," Little Bulb takes on some fierce competitors—Bob Broccoli, Caleb Carrot and Sally Spinach—to find out who's the greatest vegetable. With his stomach feeling "like a tornado of cotton candy," Little Bulb only hoped the judges did their homework when comparing the different colors of vegetables.
"I like to cook and my favorite ingredient is garlic. But doing research for my story helped me learn how much California contributes to the supply of food here and around the world."
"The Apple of My Eye"
7th grade, Grace Academy
Teacher: Jonna Stiff
Tall, dark and apple-cheeked
Take a magical palace, a cruel apple queen and a gazillion apple trees. ... When it looks like things in Fugitopia just couldn't get any worse, a shiny, red hero arrives. Just call him Macintosh, an apple destined to steal the heart of a queen.
"Growing up in the Coachella Valley, I've always been aware of agriculture, but I wanted to learn more about how fruits and vegetables are harvested so I decided to write about my favorite fruit—apples."
6th grade, Grenada Elementary
Teacher: Debbi Hoy
A buckaroo's tale
A boy's first trail ride takes him high into California's Trinity Alps for a look at how cattle have been moved and grazed for centuries. Along the way, he learns more than a few lessons about modern cattle ranching and adult responsibilities.
"My story is based on stories my grandfather has shared on taking cows to the summer range, but in my research, I learned there are a lot of ways to herd cows."
8th grade, Gratton School
Teacher: Rexann Jensen
It's not easy being green
Peter Pistachio finds himself hanging around, just a greenhorn hoping to turn red. As the rest of the nuts on the tree gain color, Peter gets devastating news: He could be rotten! That might be why he's still green. The agony of uncertainty follows and the time left before fall harvest is running out.
"I was raised among almond trees and know a lot about farming, but I didn't know a lot about pistachios, except that I like to eat them."
How to enter the 2009 "Imagine this..." contest
Students in the third through eighth grades are encouraged to submit stories with an agricultural theme for this year's "Imagine this..." story writing contest.
Students from Delta High School were among those who used their graphic design, art and photography talents to illustrate 2008’s winning stories. From left, front row, Griselda Casillas, Lizbeth Orozco, Maria Nieto-Maldonado and Kayla Espinoza; back row, Jonathan Rodriguez, Jessica Ladewig, Bibiana Chavez, Britney Rivera and Moises Chavez.
Deadline for entries is Nov. 1, and students from public, private, charter and home schools are eligible to participate. Statewide winners receive a medal, a $100 savings bond and an expense-paid trip to Sacramento—and will have their stories published in an illustrated book.
For more information, visit www.cfaitc.org/imaginethis or call 800-700-AITC.