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Farming 'ain't just dirt'

July 25, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When you ask people in Africa where their food comes from, everybody knows, Agricultural Extension Agent Mary Beth Bennett said Thursday.

Back in the industrialized United States, she finds the answer often is "the supermarket."

Helping teachers incorporate the lessons of agriculture into their classrooms is the primary reason for the first West Virginia Agricultural Institute beginning this Sunday at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The 17 teachers will spend the week attending seminars and classes with intriguing titles such as "Meeting Farm Animals - Up Close and Personal" and "It Ain't Just Dirt."

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Bennett, a West Virginia University extension service agent in Berkeley County, is the workshop director for the event, which is sponsored by the university and the West Virginia Farm Bureau Foundation.

Several years ago she helped organize a similar program at Penn State University, which 97 teachers are attending this week.

"It's a program to educate teachers about the number one industry in our country, and the most important industry in the world," according to Bennett.

The seminar will be for teachers from kindergarten through sixth grades, but she hopes to expand it to middle and high school teachers in the future.

Bennett hopes what they learn this upcoming week can be put to use in existing courses such as geography, math, science and even English.

The participants can get more than an education - it's worth three credits for those working toward a post-graduate degree.

Bennett, once an agricultural project officer in Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said children will enjoy learning basic science principles from hands-on projects like making ice cream, or growing plants in the classroom.

During the week teachers will be making trips to a nearby farm and orchard, as well as the Appalachian Tree Fruit Research Station in Bardane, W.Va., the Kearneysville Research Farm and the Aquaculture Research Center in Leetown, W.Va.

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