Iowa teachers and students are benefiting from a unique opportunity to learn about life on a farm through the virtual FarmChat program, courtesy of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF).

FarmChat provides students in grades K-12 virtual tours of Iowa farms.

Kelly Foss, IALF director, said 259 teachers and 7,899 students from 57 Iowa counties have participated in the last three FarmChat field trips.

“IALF’s FarmChat program brings the farm experience directly into the classroom,” said Foss. “With a laptop at the school and a mobile device on the farm, students can connect with and interact with Iowa farmers.”

A recent farm tour was a three-part series on poultry as part of this year’s “Gobble Up!” turkey marketing student competition. The project provided teachers with lesson plans and resources about turkey production, marketing and nutrition concepts.

Chad and Sheila Larson own and operate Larson Turkey Farms, a multigenerational farm that raises approximately 150,000 turkeys throughout the year at three different locations. The Larsons also grow corn and soybeans.

In November 2023, Sheila participated in a FarmChat virtual tour of their turkey operation. Students saw the barn, the baby turkeys, feed and water lines, fans and technology. She said the FarmChat series is wonderful.

“I love sharing what we do as farmers...,” Sheila said. “Most people don’t have the opportunity to visit a farm and speak directly to a farmer to get their questions answered. People are naturally going to be curious about what happens on a farm and how their food ends up on their plate.

“This program allows us to reach a mass amount of people without risking the health of our livestock. We take them inside the barns, show the animals, the technology and speak directly with them about how our farm works.”

FarmChat is also a beneficial educational tool in the classroom. Teachers receive resources connected to Iowa Core standards to further enforce concepts learned through FarmChat.

Morgan Hibbs teaches middle school agriculture at Clear Creek Amana (CCA) and said a majority of CCA students live in urban communities.

CCA students participated in the “Learning with Pigs” chat. They virtually visited the Wiley nursery in Benton County and learned about sows and piglets and how they are cared for on the farm.

“FarmChat is key to engaging students in field trips they would otherwise not get to participate in,” Hibbs said. “The ease and access to leaving school for half or full days is becoming more challenging, and I think it is so important to offer unique experiences to our youth that provide awareness about the world around them.”

The students have enjoyed the experience, she said.

“A few weeks after the FarmChat, I ran into a parent whose child participated and they told me how much the student loved it,” Hibbs said. “It was such a high compliment. When a student shares information with their parents, you know it meant something to them.”

To learn more about FarmChats, visit

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