Right This Very Minute
Students read Right This Very Minute—a table-to-farm book about food production and farming—and diagram the path of production for a processed product, study a map to discover where different commodities are grown, and write a thank-you letter to farmers in their local community. Grades 3-5
- Right This Very Minute by Lisl H. Detlefsen
Activity 1: Right This Very Minute
- Right This Very Minute Clock activity sheet
- Right This Very Minute Map activity sheet
- Brass fasteners, 1 per student
- Various art supplies (scissors, glue sticks, pen/pencil)
Activity 2: Processed or Not?
- Processed or Not? cards, 1 card per student
Activity 3: Thank a Farmer
- Construction/card stock paper
- Lined paper
- Various art supplies (markers, colored pencils, glue sticks)
commodity: a primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold
commodity chain: the set of activities involved in the creation of a good or service; each part of the process, including production, distribution, and consumption, represents a discrete link in the chain
food processing: the process of transforming raw agricultural products, like grains, vegetables, meat, or milk, into end products to be sold to consumers
harvest: the process or period of gathering crops
precision agriculture: an information technology-based, site-specific farm management system that collects and responds to data ensuring that crops receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity
raw: food in its natural state; not yet processed or purified
Did You Know?
- One U.S. farm produces food and fiber for 165 people each year.1
- Women make up 30 percent of the total number of farm operators.1
- Cattle and calves, corn, and dairy products are the top three U.S. farm products.1
- Farm and ranch families make up 2 percent of the U.S. population.1
Background Agricultural Connections
What’s that you say? You’re hungry? Right this very minute? Then you need a farmer. All of the food we eat has a story. Right this very minute someone is growing, harvesting, transporting, or processing our produce, crops, and livestock.
Location and climate play a big role in food production. California, the nation’s top agricultural state, has a moderate Mediterranean climate and diverse land resources which allow year-round production of many commodities including carrots, lettuce, broccoli, artichokes, and avocados.2 North Dakota’s sub-humid continental climate is perfect for the production of small grains, specifically Spring wheat and Durum (pasta) wheat.3 Florida’s very mild subtropical climate allows Florida to produce 65% of the United States’ citrus production.4
With the help of today’s technologies, farmers all over the United States benefit from precision agriculture practices, robots, Global Positioning System (GPS), self-driving tractors, and drones which increase yield and improve quality. Refer to the lesson High-Tech Farming to explore activities that help students discover technologies that are used on farms to increase efficiency and yields.
Once food is grown and harvested, it is transported to other states in the U.S. and other countries. States that don’t have the proper climate or soil to grow specific fruits, vegetables, or crops benefit from the transportation of produce grown in other areas. Food can be transported in a variety of ways including trucks, trains, airplanes, or ships. Refer to the lesson By Land, Air, or Sea to explore activities that help students discover how commodities are transported from producers to consumers.
All of the food we eat travels through a commodity chain. Growing, harvesting, transporting, processing, and consuming are all distinct links in the chain. The complexity of the commodity chain depends on the presence or absence of these procedures. Eating fresh produce from your garden creates a shorter commodity chain because it takes less time and resources to grow and transport homegrown produce. Eating California-grown produce in the Midwest creates a longer commodity chain because of the labor and resources used to grow, harvest, process, and transport commodities across the United States.
Most of the food we eat requires some form of food processing, which includes procedures like curing pork, pasteurizing milk, turning milk into cheese, squeezing oranges into orange juice, or turning apples into applesauce. Without food processing, our diets would only consist of whole, raw foods exactly as they were produced on the farm and only in the season or for the shelf life of the food item.5 It is important for consumers to understand the story of their food and what farmers and agriculturists are doing right this very minute to feed our nation.
- Begin by asking your students what they think farmers are doing right this very minute.
- Allow students to share ideas and discuss different possibilities.
- Read the book Right This Very Minute by Lisl Detlefsen.
- Discuss food with your students. What food do they regularly eat in the lunchroom? What do they enjoy for breakfast?
- Ask students what is happening right this very minute with the food they eat.
- Explain to students that they are going to learn more about the food they eat, where it is grown, and what farmers are doing right this very minute to produce our food.
Explore and Explain
Activity 1: Right This Very Minute
- Pass out a Right This Very Minute Clock activity sheet to each student. Instruct the students to cut out the small product pictures and clock hands on page 2.
- Allow the students to attach the clock hands to the clock face using a brass fastener.
- Ask the students to pick 12 of the 16 product pictures that are mentioned in the book Right This Very Minute.
- Discuss the product pictures with the students. Which 12 products did they choose?
- Instruct the students to assign each of the 12 product pictures to an hour on clock.
- Pass out a Right This Very Minute Map activity sheet to each student. You may want to laminate maps for multiple uses. Please note that the map only includes products that are discussed in the book. Challenge the students to think of other popular commodities grown in your state. Examples may include pumpkins, soybeans, avocados, pork, chicken, peaches, etc.
- Explain to the students that each hour on the clock has three boxes. Students will need to fill in each box with the following information:
- Box 1: Product picture (e.g. Dairy cow)
- Box 2: List three states where it is grown/produced? (e.g. California, Idaho, Wisconsin)
- Box 3: What are different ways we can eat and enjoy this product? (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream) For fruits and vegetables, students can also include descriptions like fresh, canned, juiced, frozen, and dried.
- Allow the students to read the map and fill in the three boxes about each of the 12 products on their clock.
- Once the students have completed their clocks, take time to discuss each of the boxes for the different commodities and products.
- Have the students take turns sharing a “time of the day” on their clock and what product is being grown at that time. For example, one student shares their clock and says, “At 1 o’clock, wheat is being grown in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The flour from wheat is used for pancakes, bread, pasta, and pizza dough.”
- Once each student has shared a time of the day on their clock, ask the following questions to lead a class discussion:
- What can we learn from the map?
- Why are certain products grown in specific areas?
- Where is most of our wheat and corn produced?
- Why is California able to grow such a wide variety of agricultural commodities?
- What foods can you eat fresh?
- What does it mean if your food is processed?
- Why do we process some of our food?
- Refer to the Background Agricultural Connections paragraph to discuss how agriculture varies from state to state, the technology farmers use to grow our food, and how food is transported across the United States.
Activity 2: Processed or Not?
- Ask the students what it means to process something. Allow the students to share their ideas.
- Refer to the Background Agricultural Connection paragraph and explain to the students that much of the food we eat is processed. Food that is not processed is referred to as whole, raw, or fresh.
- Ask the students why we process food.
- Pass out a Processed or Not? card to each student. Instruct the students to determine if the food on their card is processed or not.
- Ask the students who are holding processed foods to stand on the left side of the classroom. Ask the students who are holding fresh or raw products to stand on the right side of the classroom.
- Some products may be able to go on either side of the classroom. For example, milk is processed because it undergoes pasteurization and homogenization; however, some people do consume raw milk. The bread on the sandwich has been processed from wheat, but the lettuce and tomato on the sandwich could be fresh. Some eggs are pasteurized in the shell before consumption, or students might gather fresh, raw eggs from their own chickens. Allow students to think critically about their answers.
- Once students have decided on which side of the classroom to stand, discuss their answers.
- Ask students again why we process food. Students should be able to see from all the students standing on the processed side, that food processing gives us more options.
- Ask the following questions to lead a discussion:
- What would we have to eat if we didn’t process any food?
- Is one side of the room healthier than the other? (Healthy diets include eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of our food is safer to eat because of processing—like pasteurizing dairy and egg products.)
- What are farmers and agriculturists doing right this very minute to grow and produce are food?
Activity 3: Thank a Farmer
- Ask the students to create and decorate thank-you cards that portray farmers, agriculture, or food production.
- Allow the students to write a thank-you letter in their card and address it to local farmers/agriculturists in the community.
- Instruct students on how to properly format a thank-you letter with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
- Ask students to include the following components:
- Greeting (Dear…)
- Express thanks (Thank you for…)
- Add specific details (My family really enjoys eating fresh fruit…)
- Restate your thanks (Again, thank you for…)
- End with your regards (Sincerely…)
Use videos from the How Does it Grow? Video Series to spotlight different products discussed in the book Right This Very Minute by showing the students how the products are grown and harvested.
Conduct a ZOOM/Skype/Facebook live tour with a local farmer. Have the farmer give a tour of their operation and answer questions from the students in a live setting.
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Farmers work to grow and harvest the food we eat.
- A wide variety of agricultural products are grown all over the United States.
- Much of the food we eat is processed. Without food processing, our diets would only include raw, whole foods that are grown in season on the farm.
Recommended Companion Resources
- Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets
- Agricultural Stats and Facts
- Before the Plate Website
- From Start to Finish Series
- George the Farmer
- How Does it Grow? Video Series
- How It's Made Documentary Series
- I Love Strawberries!
- My Family's Farm Book Series
- Processed Food Breakdown
- Real Farm & Ranch Kids
- Right This Very Minute: A table-to-farm book about food and farming
- Strawberry Ag Mag
- Where Does Food Come From?
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