Interacting with Insects

July 14, 2022

The 2022 Summer Agriculture Institute (SAI) theme was “Pollinators, Pests and Protein: Insects in Agriculture” and was held June 8-10 and June 13-15.

This year 11 teachers participated in the Summer Agriculture Institute (From left) Dana Mallar, Southeast Elementary; Maria Campbell, Indian Creek Elementary; Kelsey Gilmore, South Prairie Elementary; Melissa Irick, Hiawatha CUSD; Lily Smith-Riel, Hiawatha Elementary; Jill Henson, Southeast Elementary; Amy Gomes, Haskin Elementary; Christopher Gomes, Somonauk Middle School; Kathleen Grahahan, McHenry Middle School; Tia Palmiter, Sycamore High School; Elizabeth Peterson, Sycamore Middle School.

Sponsored by DeKalb County Farm Bureau, this six-day institute for educators encompassed tours, speakers, presentations and hands-on activities. At each tour presenters talked about their general operation, giving teachers insight into the agriculture industry. Tour hosts also discussed how they manage insects and the role that they play.

In workshop sessions at Farm Bureau, teachers also learned about agricultural classroom resources provided by Farm Bureau.

Teachers participating in SAI could earn either three hours of graduate credit from the University of St. Francis or 45 professional development credits from the DeKalb Regional Office of Education.

At Whispering Pines Reindeer Ranch, teachers had the opportunity to interact with the reindeer by holding out branches for them to eat. One thing that the group found fascinating is that both male and female reindeer have antlers.
Amy Gomes and Melissa Irick sample various flavors of roasted crickets from Gym-N-Eat Crickets. Other products that were available for teachers to sample were cricket bars and treats made with cricket powder. Teachers learned that 80 percent of the world eats insects as a food source by choice and the average American accidently eats one to two pounds of insects per year!
At Walnut Grove Vocational Farm, teachers were able to explore the flowers and plants grown in the greenhouse. Teachers also learned that this farm provides opportunities and career choices to adults with special needs by teaching them about agriculture and horticulture through hands-on work experiences.
Kevin Daugherty from Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom presented a workshop on various resources, books, activities and financial grants that are available for teachers to utilize in their classrooms.
Elizabeth Peterson and Tia Palmiter match insects to the correct descriptions during a workshop hosted by Rhodora Collins, DeKalb County Farm Bureau Ag Literacy Coordinator. During this workshop they explored resources and ag literacy kits that have lessons and activities to use in their classrooms.
Trent Sanderson talks with teachers as they visit Pasture Grazed and Sanderson Ag learning about how this farm business is managing both conventional and organic grain farming as well as raising beef cattle. Much of what they do on the farm is aimed to help protect the soil and other resources that can help them produce sufficient yields.
Honey Hill Orchard welcomes teachers along for a ride to learn about the important role that pollinators play in their orchard. Teachers learned how Honey Hill Orchard tries to manage harmful insects while protecting pollinators.
At C & B Farms, Mandy Baenziger shows educators around their farm explaining their cow-calf herd. Teachers also had the opportunity to interact with other animals on the farm including goats, chickens, peacocks, ducks, geese and donkeys.
Jamie and Larisa Willrett give a tour of J. Willrett Farms and provide an overview of the beef industry from a domestic and global perspective. They talked about using parasitic wasps to manage flies and other insects that pester and cause infections among their cattle.
At J.P. Faivre Farms, Josh and Vickie Faivre show teachers some of the machinery that they use to implement a variety of practices on their grain farm.
Anita Zurbrugg welcomes teachers to see her native prairie habitat that she transformed from a cornfield. Teachers had the opportunity to explore more than 140 varieties of trees and shrubs that are established on the 10 acres of land.
Six teachers were awarded scholarships this year for the Summer Ag Institute. This is the second year that the Hartmann SAI Scholarship assisted teachers with the cost of the course. Scholarships were distributed by Sari Hartmann to (from left) Melissa Irick, Elizabeth Peterson, Lily Smith-Riel, (Sari), Maria Campbell, Tia Palmiter and Kelsey Gilmore.
A scholarship designated for Sandwich and Somonauk area educators was awarded to two teachers. Scholarship sponsors Alan and JoAnn Adams presented scholarship checks to (from left) Christopher Gomes, (JoAnn and Alan), and Amy Gomes. The Adams farm near Sandwich.

Teacher Testimonials

“This was an amazing experience to become more familiar with the diversity of farming resources available in our community from which staff and students can learn. It’s so important to learn about something that is a huge part of this county’s history and future.” -Kelsey Gilmore, South Prairie Elementary, Sycamore

“I have more knowledge of careers in STEM and government that are connected to agriculture, without necessarily being directly on the farmland itself.” -Lily Smith-Riel, Hiawatha Elementary, Kirkland

“It [SAI] was extremely beneficial to me and will give me more tools in my toolbox from this experience that I can sprinkle throughout my lessons.” -Christopher Gomes, Somonauk Middle School

A Special Thank You To All Who Helped Make SAI Possible: