Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

March 20, 2007

Commissioner to Join Industry for Ag Literacy Day

March 21: Over 40,000 Second Graders to Learn about Agriculture in NYS

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker will join over 500 volunteers, including 20 Department employees, this week to promote agriculture literacy across New York State. Held in conjunction with National Agriculture Week, the goal of "Agricultural Literacy Day" is to increase the awareness and understanding of agriculture in New York State by having volunteers read an agriculture-themed book to students.

"As more of our society becomes further removed from the farm, events like Agricultural Literacy Day become all the more important," the Commissioner said. "Agricultural Literacy Day is an excellent example of how the agricultural industry is working together to reestablish the understanding and appreciation for the food and services farmers provide our local communities."

On March 21, Agricultural Literacy Day, more than 500 volunteers throughout the State will visit 1,100 schools to read a book with an agricultural theme and talk to students about agriculture in New York State. The book will be donated to the school library with a special bookplate recognizing the donor and Agricultural Literacy Day. Following the book reading, teachers will be provided with a lesson plan for planting and experimenting with marigold seeds.

The Commissioner will be reading at his children’s school, Mt. Markham Central School in West Winfield. In addition, 20 Department of Agriculture and Markets employees will be volunteering their time to read to numerous schools throughout the Capital District and other parts of the State. This year, it is estimated that more than 1,100 books will be read to over 40,000 children statewide.

The book that will be featured for this year’s Agricultural Literacy Day is Lily’s Garden by Deborah Kogan Ray. Lily’s Garden creates a calendar of the year seen through the lens of things planted, grown, and harvested. Lily’s Garden demonstrates the procession of months and the change of seasons, the holidays, and ultimately the passage of an entire year in the garden are celebrated in this captivating and informative picture book.

Perry Dewey, Director of Agriculture Outreach and Education at Cornell University, said, "Agricultural Literacy Day is a excellent opportunity for New York agriculturalists to promote agricultural literacy to second graders across the State. Through communications with educators who participated in last year’s Ag Literacy Day project, it is evident that they will continue to anticipate the yearly program as a quality educational event for their students. I would like to extend a heart felt thank you from the staff at New York Agriculture in the Classroom to all of the county coordinators and volunteer readers who will make the 2007 reading of Lily's Garden a success."

Agricultural Literacy Day in New York is sponsored and coordinated by New York Ag in the Classroom, which is a partnership of Cornell University, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York State Education Department, and New York Farm Bureau. Ag in the Classroom works with cooperative extension educators, teachers, Farm Bureau members, and others throughout the State to foster an awareness, understanding and appreciation of agriculture and the total food and fiber system.

New York agriculture encompasses 25 percent of the State’s landscape and generated $3.6 billion for our economy last year. Currently, New York State has 7.5 million acres of farmland with 35,000 farms.

For more information on the second annual New York Agricultural Literacy Day or New York Ag in the Classroom, contact its Director of Agriculture Outreach and Education, Perry Dewey, at 607-255-7381 or, or visit the Ag in the Classroom website at

2007 Press Releases