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

April 03, 2008

Commissioner to Join Industry for Ag Literacy Day

April 8: 60,000 2nd Graders across New York to Learn about Agriculture

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker will join over 500 volunteers to promote agriculture literacy across New York State. Agricultural Literacy Day was initiated to increase the awareness and understanding of agriculture in New York State by having volunteers read an agriculture-themed book to students.

"As someone who grew up in the country, working on a farm, I consider myself lucky to have first-hand knowledge and an appreciation of where food comes," the Commissioner said. "Unfortunately, that is not the case for most children these days. That disconnect between farmers and consumers is what makes Agricultural Literacy Day such a positive event. It allows members of the agricultural industry to share their passion and wisdom with children by reading a simple book. As a maple producer myself, I look forward to enticing students with the tale of maple syrup from tree to table this year as part of Ag Literacy Day."

On April 8, Agricultural Literacy Day, volunteers throughout the State will visit over a 1,000 schools to read a book with an agricultural theme to second graders and talk to students about agriculture in New York State. After the reading, the book will be donated to the school library with a bookplate recognizing the donor and New York Ag Literacy Day. Lesson plans and activities will also be provided to teachers. Last year, more than 1,200 books were donated.

The Commissioner will read on Friday, April 4 at his children’s school, Mt. Markham Central School in West Winfield (Otsego County) and at the Westfield Elementary School in Chautauqua County on Thursday, April 10. This year, it is estimated that more than 1,200 books will be read to over 60,000 children statewide.

Sugarbush Spring is the featured book this year, written by Marsha Wilson Chall and illustrated by Jim Daly. Sugarbush Spring is narrated by a young girl who is finally old enough to accompany her grandfather to the sugarbush to tap a hundred sugar maples and hang pails to collect maple syrup. She explains how warm, sunny days and freezing temperatures at night help draw more sap from the trees, and how they boil the sap to make maple syrup.

Heather Davis, Interim Coordinator of New York Ag in the Classroom, said, "The out-pouring of support and interest this year has been overwhelming. The New York State Maple Producers Association, the Agway Corporation, our many County coordinators, and volunteer readers throughout the state have devoted their own time and effort into this event and it is because of them that thousands of children throughout New York State, will learn to appreciate agriculture and its importance in their lives. I would like to thank them all for their hard work and support."

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 $3.5 billion for our economy last year. Currently, New York State has 7.5 million acres of farmland with more than 34,000 farms.

For more information on the third annual New York Agricultural Literacy Day or New York Ag in the Classroom, contact its Interim Coordinator, Heather Davis, at 607-255-9253 or, or visit the Ag in the Classroom website at


PHOTOGRAPHS of the Commissioner reading to students are available by emailing

2008 Press Releases