Wallaces Farmer

Helping kids understand agriculture

The Coleman family designed a program to help students understand how farming really works

Rod Swoboda

September 3, 2019

5 Min Read
Dean and Carol Coleman
COLEMAN FAMILY: Providing an opportunity for grade school students to visit a farm, plant seeds and learn where food comes from, the Dean and Carol Coleman helps kids connect the importance of farming with their daily lives.

Editor’s Note: Two days after Carol and Dean Coleman were interviewed for this article about Carol being named a 2019 Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Award winner, Dean died in an on-farm accident.

Each spring for the past six years, Carol and Dean Coleman hosted a group of second graders on the Coleman farm west of Humboldt. It’s a day of learning. Students from Taft Elementary School get firsthand experience planting Iowa corn and soybeans. The Adopt-A-Farmer project begins with spring planting and finishes in the fall when, as third graders, the kids come back and harvest the crop they helped plant. This year, 82 students are participating.

The students plant their plots by hand. During summer they follow the crop’s progress via videos online, and parents can drive them by the field. Dean and Carol, along with son Mike, started this program in 2013 to help students understand how and why farmers raise crops. The Coleman family grows corn and soybeans on their north-central Iowa farm.

“We wanted kids to have a chance to meet the people who do the farming,” says Carol, who was a preschool teacher for 20 years, and is a mother of two and a grandmother of five. “We want kids to be able to put a face on farmers, who provide the basics of everyday life: food on their tables, fiber in clothing, renewable fuel and many other products made from crops.”

 Learning to appreciate agriculture

“We had hosted grade school classes in the past,” Carol says. “They visited our farm but there wasn’t much time for us to explain our farm operations. The kids had fun seeing how much a bushel weighs and what is made from corn and soybeans. They love sitting in the tractor, learning about equipment and seeing inside a grain bin, but we wanted to create a program to provide a more comprehensive look at agriculture. We give kids a chance to ask questions and learn facts about farming. They see that food doesn’t just magically appear on grocery store shelves. They learn how their food is grown.”

Prior to planting season, the Colemans visit the classroom and introduce themselves to the students. They explain the “Adopt-A-Farmer” program and how they would like to become part of their classroom. The Colemans provide videos of farmer Dean and farmer Mike doing their jobs, so students can see what’s involved with spraying crops, welding farm equipment, making a hitch for a planter or fixing the tractor’s computer.

Dean and Carol Coleman host a group of students at their farm
ADOPT-A-FARMER: Linking the classroom to the farm, students get to plant kernels of corn and soybeans in the spring, watch the crop grow in summer, and help harvest it in the fall.

Also via video, students “ride” in the sprayer and planter with Dean and Mike. Students then come to the Coleman farm and each of them plant kernels of corn and soybeans. Students and families can drive by and watch the crop grow. In the fall, they return and harvest their crop and see more things going on at the farm.

“The students get excited when they see their crops in the field and know what’s growing,” Carol says. “Maybe they’ll share some fun facts they learned on our farm, with their parents.” 

To help make a connection between crops planted, livestock raised and food on the table, the Colemans share soymilk and corn chips with the kids.

Students get to know their farmers

“Mrs. Coleman greets our students with a warm, caring, inviting welcome,” says George Bruder, Humboldt Elementary School principal. “The children rotate to several stations as Carol has other farmers and ag specialists help teach each session. After this year’s field trip, it was awesome for me to listen to our students talk with enthusiasm about what they saw and learned. Thanks to Carol for extending our school’s four walls of learning to an outdoor classroom.”

Carol and Dean value education. Both taught Sunday school when their kids were young, and both were 4-H leaders.

“Our sons were in 4-H, now our grandkids are,” Carol says. Dean was on the Humboldt County Fair Board and served as president and treasurer. He held positions with the county Farm Bureau and was on the county ISU Extension Council.

Carol actively supported Dean’s service to the Iowa Soybean Association and the American Soybean Association. On the board of directors of ISA for years, he served as treasurer, vice president and president. Representing Iowa on the ASA board, he devoted time and effort to lobby on behalf of soybean farmers, meeting with state and federal officials. In addition to regular trips to Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Des Moines, Dean traveled overseas on trade missions to meet with foreign buyers and promote U.S. soybeans and soy products. Carol accompanied him on several market development trips overseas.

The Colemans hosted foreign trade groups visiting Iowa. “It is very educational for us as well as the visitors when we host them on our farm,” Carol says.

She and Dean raised two sons on the farm. Nick Coleman and his wife, Jaime, live in Ogden with their two children and own a retail seed and agronomy service. Mike and his wife, Michelle, have three children and live next to Carol and Dean, as Mike is a working partner in the farming operation.

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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