Students will gain a deeper understanding of economic and health impacts through the lens of a strawberry farmer and apply their understanding to build and plant a strawberry patch.
Reading, Math, Health, Social Studies
Antioxidants: substances that inhibit oxidation in living organisms and removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.
Cause: part of the cause and effect relationship, where one is the result of the other and the cause is the action.
Commodity: a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold.
Consumer: a person who purchases goods and services for personal use.
Demand: a consumer’s desire to purchase goods and services and willingness to pay a price for a specific good or service.
Effect: part of the cause and effect relationship, where one is the result of the other and the effect is the reaction.
Farmer’s Market: a food market where local farmers sell fruit, vegetables, and other goods directly to consumers.
Fruit: a fleshy product of a tree or plant containing seeds and can be eaten in some cases.
Food miles: the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.
Goods: merchandise or possessions.
Growing: the natural development of a living thing that occurs by increasing size and changing physically.
Harvesting: gathering a crop.
Healthy: promoting good health.
Minerals: solid, inorganic substances of natural occurrence.
Nutrients: substances that provide nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.
Nutritional value: contents of food and the impact it has on the body.
Packing: action or process of putting things into bags, boxes, or storage.
Producer: a person, company, or country that makes, grows, or supplies goods or commodities for sale.
Product label: any piece of material attached to a product to identify its contents.
Purchasing: acquiring something by buying it or paying for it.
Services: systems supplying public need such as transport, communications, or utilities such as electricity or water.
Sorting: arranging systematically in groups or to separate according to type, size, class, or shape.
Storing: keeping or accumulating something for future use.
Strawberry: a sweet, soft, red fruit with a seed-studded surface.
Supply: a resource from which a person or place can be provided with the necessary amount of that resource.
Transplanted: having been moved or transferred to another place or situation.
Transporting: taking or carrying from one place to another.
Transit: the carrying of people, goods, or materials from one place to another.
Vitamins: any group of organic compounds, which are essential for normal growth and nutrition.
Strawberries are unique! Did you know strawberries are the only fruit that wear seeds on the outside? Most fruits that are categorized as “berries” contain their seeds inside the fruit; however, strawberries are not considered a true berry. Strawberries are a member of the rose family. There are several different fruits and berries that belong to the rose family including raspberries, blackberries, cherries, apples, and pears. Strawberry plants are perennials. That means if you plant one it will grow back year after year, but most strawberry farmers do not use this method. Instead they purchase strawberry plugs, which are young, small strawberry plants that are grown and then transplanted in the farmer’s strawberry patch. Strawberries are also the first fruit to ripen in the spring, and no other small fruit produces berries as soon after planting as strawberry plants.2
Strawberries have many health benefits. Listed here are a few facts to better understand their health benefits.
In North Carolina, strawberry farmers plant in the fall, around late September through early October, depending on the location. The plants are planted as transplants in rows on raised beds. The raised beds are covered with a special plastic that is typically black in color. This plastic serves as a weed barrier, increases soil warmth through insulation, holds in moisture, and provides a clean surface for strawberries to grow and ripen. Between the rows, rye grass is often planted to prevent soil erosion. Throughout the growing season, farmers watch the weather for rain and extreme temperatures that drop below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower). They irrigate the berries in dry conditions with watering systems, such as sprinklers or drip tape laid beneath the black plastic. Additionally, during winter months, with below freezing temperatures sprinkler systems are used to provide a layer of ice as a barrier for frost protection for the strawberry plants. Strawberries are typically harvested in late April through May, and can continue to June, depending on weather and location.
Did you know that if an average of 25 strawberry plants were planted, these plants and the resulting runner plants would produce 25 quarts of strawberries? Imagine nearly 6 gallons of strawberries produced from 25 plants.2 If it takes approximately 5 lbs. of strawberries to make a gallon, how many lbs. could a farmer sell from 25 strawberry plants? Answer: 30 lbs.
Before you begin identify any food allergies among the students. Provide them with a few favorite breakfast and snack foods such as a strawberry pop tart, fruit roll-up, and any other foods with strawberry as an ingredient. Allow students to conduct a taste-testing party. Ask students, “What is your favorite snack food you sampled today? What is the common feature among these different snacks?” Direct student conversations by explaining that the snack foods they sampled contain strawberries to provide a desirable flavor. Ask students the following questions:
Create a class pictograph, bar graph, or tally chart to display the information. Explain to students the next several days/weeks we are going to be learning more about strawberries and how important they are in our diet and in our community.
Essential Question: Why is the strawberry the state berry for North Carolina?
Standards: 4.G.1.1, 4.RI.3, 4.W.2. 4.W.2b, 4.W.2d, 4.W.7
See the response from a North Carolina strawberry farmer.” See video clip for response: https://www.ncfarmtoschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Strawberry-Ag-in-the-Classroom-7.mp4
a. Harvesting: Focus on how and when harvesting takes place. These are the stages of growing a strawberry.
Stages of a Strawberry:
At the productive stage, strawberry plants are harvested. But knowing when and how to harvest is extremely important to the strawberry grower and also to the consumer.
Watch this video of different ways strawberries are harvested:
Some important information about strawberry harvesting:
New technologies have been created such as a strawberry picking robot. Watch this video to see how it works:
b. Sorting: Focus on the sorting process taking place in the field. Some important information about strawberry sorting:
c. Packing: Focus on the packing process taking place in the field.
d. Storing: Focus on keeping the temperatures at appropriate ranges to prevent post-harvest disease.
e. Transporting: Focus on time from field to store (commercial).
f. Purchasing: Focus on where to purchase and how to choose the best strawberries. Strawberries are available for purchase at local farmer’s markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own farms (PYO), and grocery stores.
Show students a short video about a Trip to the Farmer’s Market
Essential Question: Why do farmers consider the relationship between producer and consumer, goods and services, and supply and demand to be important?
Standards: 4.L.2, 4.L.2.1, 4.L.2.2, 4.RI.7, 4.NPA.1
Essential Question: Are strawberries a healthy snack?
Before beginning the lesson, ask students, “Is there a difference in fresh and frozen strawberries?” We read food labels to help understand simple questions like this. Go through and identify each area of the food label with students. Answer the questions pertaining to food nutrition.
Essential Question: Why do farmers use black plastic for growing strawberries?
Standards: 4.NBT.B.4, 4.MD.A.3, 4.G.A.1
Essential Question: How do farmers design their strawberry fields?
See Strawberry Budget Program Conventional
Farmers use one roll per acre. Used to irrigate strawberry beds
Note: For a more accurate account of cost, invite a strawberry farmer to your class for discussing all of the economic factors for growing strawberries per acre or have students write a letter asking for more information.
Strawberries were named the state red berry in 2001. Strawberries are very important to the agricultural economy of North Carolina. In fact, they bring millions of dollars of revenue to the state. Aside from the obvious economic benefits, strawberries offer many other benefits. Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A. The provide 8% of the daily iron intake. There are only 60 calories in one serving of strawberries (about a cup).
A lot goes in to getting us fresh, delicious, and high-quality food to eat. Farmers sell their strawberries to local farmer’s markets, at roadside stands, right off their farm as pick-your-own berries (aka: PYO), and of course at grocery stores. A lot of time and labor goes into getting strawberries on grocery store shelves. Strawberries are grown, harvested, sorted, packed, stored, and transported to grocery stores all before getting to consumers. Strawberries are typically sold cheaper at pick-your-own farms, because there are not as many steps to get them to the consumer. Therefore, more time and effort is required of the consumer for harvesting strawberries at pick-your-own farms. In North Carolina, strawberry harvest is April-May, so it is important to create a good plan and find local farms to purchase berries. Don’t have time to pick your own berries? No problem, farmers sell their crop in different ways to reach all consumers. We are fortunate that we can purchase strawberries from grocery stores in every season or during the harvest season, locally.
A farmer grows the food and fiber for our nation. With less than 2% of the population being directly connected to a farm there are very few individuals that feed and clothe our nation. This explains why a farmer considers the relationship of goods and services, producers and consumers, and supply and demand to be important. In explaining this further, it is important to highlight that the farmer is the producer and the consumer. First and foremost the farmer wants to make or grow a product that is marketable and desired by the consumer. The farmer grows the best product possible, because both the farmer and the consumer will use these goods.
Farmers provide goods and services; for example, the farmer grows the good (product) such as strawberries to sell to the public. In selling directly to the public there are many things that have to happen for the product to get to the consumer. An example is the truck driver (service) who hauls the produce from field to the store. The laborers (service) pick the produce or run equipment that loads the truck that takes the produce to the stores. The grocery store clerk (service) stocks the shelves and ensures the end product is clean and ready for purchase. These are just a few examples of the relationship between goods and services.
Additionally, the relationship with the farmer associated with supply and demand is vitally important. The farmer wants to meet the demand of the consumer and markets the strawberries to what the consumer wants. The farmer has to provide an adequate supply to meet the consumer’s demand. Farmers have to predict and calculate acreage necessary to meet the needs of the consumer while also not planting too much because an overage could result in produce not being picked and bought.
The answer to this question is, yes! Strawberries are very healthy to eat. They are a great source of many vitamins and minerals we need to sustain a healthy body.
Use the following information to learn more.
The southeastern strawberry production system uses a special black plastic to cover the soil. Made for farming, this plastic is very thin, yet strong and flexible. The flexibility of the plastic allows it to gently stretch over the soil without tearing. The black plastic warms the soil, acts as mulch to suppress weeds, and conserve water. It also limits diseases by keeping fruit from contacting the soil. Agricultural black plastic is usually 5 feet wide and comes in rolls (an average cost for a 5’ X 4000’ roll of black plastic = $250). Farmers use black plastic to help conserve water, control weeds, keep berries clean and safe from decay, and it also warms the soil to help with the growth of the strawberry plant.
Strawberries in North Carolina are usually grown in double rows on black plastic- covered raised beds, set 5 feet apart. Farmers leave space between rows to allow room for walking and harvesting. Strawberry plants are usually planted between 12” and 15” apart. This is about the size of an inch ruler. In recent years, farmers have been moving away from closer spacing to wider spacing, to save on the cost of plants, and reduce disease in the fields. With more open spacing, there is more air circulation. How many plants are usually planted per acre? “Rule of thumb” quantities, respectively, are 17,500 and 15,000 plants/acre. Strawberry growers always buy extra transplants in case some die. If plants are grown in the same field year after year, the farmer develops a good idea of how many are needed.
Agriculture and the Environment
Plant and Animals for Food, Fiber, and Energy
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
Culture, Society, and Geography
4.RI.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
4.RI.3 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
4.RI.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
4.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
4.W.2b Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
4.W.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
4.W.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
4.NBT.B.4 Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
4.MD.A.3 Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor.
4.G.A.1 Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.
4.L.2 Understand food and the benefits of vitamins, minerals, and exercise.
4.L.2.1 Classify substances as food or non-food items based on their ability to provide energy and materials for survival, growth, and repair of the body.
4.L.2.2 Explain the role of vitamins, minerals, and exercise in maintaining a healthy body.
4.NPA.1 Apply tools (MyPlate, Food Facts Label) to plan healthy nutrition and fitness.
4.H.2.2 Explain the historical significance of North Carolina’s state symbols.
4.G.1.1 Summarize changes that have occurred in North Carolina since statehood (population growth, transportation, communication, landscape).
4.E.1.1 Understand the basic concepts of a market economy: supply, demand, scarcity, productivity, and entrepreneurship.
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