Ag Literacy
March 20, 2023
Albany, NY

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Kicks off New York Agricultural Literacy Week

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Kicks off New York Agricultural Literacy Week
Agriculture and Education Commissioners Participate in Ag Literacy Week, Reading to Boulevard Elementary School Students in Gloversville Wednesday, March 22
Week-Long Celebration Benefits More than 80,000 Students, Promotes Importance of Agricultural Industry Through Literature and Hands-On Lessons
More than a Dozen Agriculture and Markets Staff Read to Students in Schools Across the State

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball today announced the start of Agricultural Literacy Week in New York with a full slate of reading events planned across the State throughout the week. Now in its 18th year, Agricultural Literacy Week is a statewide effort, organized by New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC), to educate students about the importance of agriculture and opportunities for careers in the industry. 

Commissioner Ball will join State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa to participate in Agricultural Literacy Week, reading to Boulevard Elementary School students in Gloversville on Wednesday, March 22 at 9:30 a.m. Commissioner Ball will also visit Schoharie Elementary School on Friday, March 24 at 9:00 a.m. In addition, more than one dozen Agriculture and Markets staff have volunteered to visit elementary schools, libraries, and Agri-Business Child Development (ABCD) centers across the state to engage with students through a book reading and hands-on activities.  

Commissioner Ball said, “Cliché as it may sound, our children really are the future. As leaders in the agricultural community, it’s our responsibility to foster an understanding and appreciation of how our food is grown and where it comes from in our young people. Agricultural Literacy week gives us the opportunity to teach New York students to see the value of agriculture in their daily lives, and maybe even find a calling in the field. I am grateful to my fellow State Commissioners, our Department employees and so many other volunteers from across the State who are helping to share the importance of our industry this week.” 

State Education Commissioner Rosa said, “When we are able to bring books to life and engage students about issues important in their communities, it sets them up for a lifetime of learning and to be responsible and thoughtful civic stewards. New York State is rich in agricultural history, and farming is an important facet of our economy. This year’s featured book for Agriculture Literacy week, “Tomatoes for Neela” by Padma Lakshmi, shares many wonderful examples of how we can connect to other cultures and build communities through food, farms, and education. I am thrilled to be able to share these important lessons with students as we celebrate Agriculture Literacy Week.”

Katie Carpenter, Director of New York Agriculture in the Classroom, said, “Agricultural Literacy Week is an exciting annual celebration of agriculture in schools across the state. NYAITC is driven to create an agriculturally literate population that understands local, national, and global food systems. When agriculture is used to teach or reinforce a core academic concept we find that students are more engaged in the lesson, and Agricultural Literacy Week is a perfect opportunity to expose thousands of teachers and students to the excitement of integrating agriculture in their classrooms.”

New York State has one of the longest running and largest Agricultural Literacy Week programs in the country. Each year, thousands of volunteers visit schools throughout the state to read an agricultural-themed book to elementary school students. This year, more than 80,000 students statewide will participate in Agricultural Literacy Week.

Students also benefit from an interactive lesson with volunteers sharing their experiences in agriculture. Teachers are provided with follow up activities to continue these important educational opportunities throughout the school year. All follow-up lessons, activities and supplementary materials are aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards.  

This year’s selected book is “Tomatoes for Neela,” by Padma Lakshmi, an intergenerational tale of connecting with other cultures, building communities, and bonding with family through food.

Commissioner Ball will be reading to students at the following schools:

To learn more about the program, including previous Agricultural Literacy Week books and NYAITC, visit    

Expanding Agricultural Education Throughout New York State

Agricultural Literacy Week is part of a larger effort by NYAITC to educate students on food production and to raise awareness of career opportunities in this field. NYAITC programs help students understand and communicate the source and value of agriculture as it impacts their daily lives. To advance the mission of NYAITC and similar organizations, Governor Hochul announced a $50 million investment over five years to support “scratch” cooking facilities that will facilitate the use of fresh New York State farm products in meal preparation for K-12 school children. This year’s Executive Budget also includes $1 million to support agricultural workforce development. The Department will work to identify internships and apprenticeships for young people and those interested in a second career in agriculture. It will also connect our workers, including migrant individuals and asylum seekers, directly with industry opportunities.

About New York Agriculture in the Classroom

Established in 1985, New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is a partnership of Cornell University, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Education Department, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York Farm Bureau.

Its mission is to foster awareness, understanding, and appreciation of how food and fiber are produced, what we eat and how we live, by helping educators, students, and their communities learn about and engage with agriculture and food systems. Learn more at