A $25,000 grant will help further ag education in several  western Iowa counties. Siouxland Agriculture in the Classroom, based in Moville, was recently named one of five nationwide winners of a $25,000 grant from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope program.

Siouxland Agriculture in the Classroom began about four years ago under the direction of Melissa Nelson. Since then, a non-profit was created and the program extended its educational outreach efforts to seven counties in western Iowa, according to Heather Collins, agriculture education specialist for the organization.

During the school year, the organization engages with 2,300 students in 65 classrooms per month. The organization hosts STEM fests, ag safety events, professional development events for teachers, virtual farm visits via Facebook Live and in-person agriculture programming and lessons in the classroom.

Top of the poll

Siouxland Agriculture in the Classroom was nominated for the grant, which was open to education-based organizations throughout the United States. The organization filled out the application, then made it to the top 10 of all applicants. The final five were then selected via a week-long public vote.

More than 280,000 votes were cast for the 10 semi-finalists during the voting period. Online voting propelled Siouxland Agriculture in the Classroom to the top five, where they placed first with more than 49,100 votes.

“I’m just so excited,” Collins said. “We’re really grateful and humbled that we were even nominated, let alone be in the top five.”

Furthering the mission

The $25,000 will help further the mission of agricultural education for the organization, which relies solely on grants and donations to operate, Collins said. They hope to purchase new tools, like a new laptop and tablet, which will help in their mission of educating students and adults about the importance of agriculture.

“To see the way our community has pulled together and been able to rally for us has been really cool,” Collins said. “It goes to show the connectedness and belief in what we’re doing.”

In addition to the grant, the organization also won a Wells Blue Bunny ice cream party and its logo will be featured on Jimmie Johnson’s helmet during the NASCAR Cup Series race on July 14 at Kentucky Speedway.

The other four recipients include Hamilton Heights Educational Foundation in Arcadia, Indiana; Life Pieces to Masterpieces in Washington, DC; Read Better Be Better in Phoenix and The Pencil Box in Tulsa, Oklahoma.