- Author: Stacey Wills
FARM SMART is crazy about carrots! Using the “Identifying phenotypes, markers, and genes in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers” project as a backdrop for context, FARM SMART has partnered with researchers and extension scientists to develop a consumer outreach component to the project that incorporates agriculture, including an expanded awareness of carrots and carrot diversity.
FARM SMART currently educates students and adults about nutrition, where food comes from, how to nourish themselves, and the importance of nutrition for the rest of the world. Increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition allows consumers to make informed personal choices about diet and health. The FARM SMART agriculture outreach component to the project will prepare students and adults for a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resources systems.
The carrot craze began in the September 2016 at the California Foundation for Ag in the Classroom conference in Sacramento, CA. The FARM SMART program volunteered to lead a “Taste of California” table at the annual dinner; connecting California educators from across the state to the colored carrot research taking place at the University of California, Desert Research and Extension Center. The dinner included a display on colored carrots, information on current research from Dr. Simon, information on the history of carrots, packets of carrot seeds to take back to their classrooms, colored carrot tastings, and lesson plan development specifically related to the research. Lesson plans included an emphasis on carrots and carrot diversity, and health benefits of disease-preventive pigments that give plants their distinctive colors. Participants left with a better understanding of the history of carrots and methods to incorporate carrots into their varying grade levels and educational institutions.
Carrots continued to take center stage at the 2017 Winter Visitor program. This program provided field tours to close to 1000 participants from across the United States and Canada and included hands-on activities such as carrot harvesting, carrot recipe demonstration, and carrot sampling. FARM SMART was able to introduce the research and history of the colored carrots, offer harvesting of colored and traditional carrots, and provide nutritional values of the different colored carrots. Participants were also introduced to carrot harvesting methods and carrot production facts for Imperial County and California.
FARM SMART has continued the carrot education through outreach to all visiting K-12 students. Students who attend a FARM SMART program from March to April have the opportunity to learn what carrots need to grow, the history of colored carrots, the nutritional value, as well as an opportunity to harvest their own traditional and organic carrots. Teachers will also be given resources to further enrich their lesson plans to include carrots. FARM SMART is excited to continue its carrot outreach to the community and visitors from across the nation in the coming 4 years through the Identifying phenotypes, markers, and genes in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers Award from the USDA-NIFA-SCRI (USDA- National Institute of Food and Agriculture- Specialty Crop Research Initiative)