National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


California Crops: From the Farm to the Table

Grade Level(s)

3 - 5

Estimated Time

Four or five 50-minute sessions


The purpose of this lesson is for students to appreciate that California is a major agricultural state. They will gather information on the production of one specific commodity grown in California.


For the class:

  • Large wall map of California with legend
  • Reference books on fruits and vegetables (optional) 

For each partnership:

  • Map of California handout 
  • California's Major Agricultural Commodities list 
  • Agricultural Organizations list (For use by California teachers only)
  • Postage stamps and/or access to e-mail
  • Letter writing materials
  • Sample Letter to Agricultural Commodity Board handout

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


agriculture: the science and business of growing crops and raising livestock

commodity: fruits, vegetables, nuts, or grains; as a unit that are bought or sold

crop: an agricultural plant grown and harvested

farm: a piece of land where crops or animals are raised

farmer: a person who produces food, fiber, or plants for others to use

geography: the mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, and other physical elements that make up an area

map: a picture that represents all or part of the Earth’s surface

Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson is part of a series called Fruits and Vegetables for Health, which introduces students to the production, distribution, and nutritional value of fresh produce. Students will gain knowledge in geography, language arts, science, and math as they learn about the process through which fruits and vegetables are transported from California farms to kitchen tables. Other related lessons in this series include:

Agriculture is an enormous industry in California and has tremendous economic impact on our state. Agriculture commodity boards, councils, and commissions serve the growers and public in many ways. These groups provide facts and figures to the government, educate farmers and consumers about the commodity, and can provide a wealth of information to educators and students. Be aware that addresses for these organizations change and can be confirmed using the websites. Refer to the attached document, California Agricultural Organizations list, for more information.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Introduce the vocabulary words included in this lesson to your students. Begin with the word, agriculture. Define the word, and then give examples of the products agriculture produces. Examples include the food we eat and the fiber we use to make fabric for clothing and furniture.
  2. Introduce the terms farm and farming. Explain that farms are places where farmers grow plants and raise animals that provide us food and fiber. If possible, give examples of farms in your area that may be familiar to the students.
  3. Finally, introduce the word crop. In this lesson students will be learning about various crops produced in California. 


Activity 1:

  1. Introduce the lesson. Explain to your students that they will be learning about California agriculture. They will become “experts” on one California commodity, write a report, and make an oral presentation to the class. Review the Agricultural Distribution Process chart provided with this lesson.
  2. Show students a large wall map of California. Introduce the legend and brainstorm several things that can be learned from the map. Have students locate where they live and identify the nearest agricultural growing regions. Discuss the main topographical areas of California—the mountains, valleys, deserts, and coastal areas. Discuss what your students know about the climate, water, and soil of different regions and how this information can indicate an area’s agricultural capacity. Discuss that each commodity grown in California has unique needs and grows best in certain regions of California. Use the attached Map of California as you see appropriate for your students. A useful commodity map, California Grows can also be used. (See 'Essential Files' section of the lesson)
  3. Select an agricultural commodity to research. Present students with the list of California’s Major Agricultural Commodities and the addresses in the California's Agricultural Organization's List  included with this lesson. In small groups of two or three, have students select an agricultural commodity for which they will become “experts.” Explain that they will teach their classmates about their commodities.
  4. Have the students select one fruit or vegetable and write a formal business letter to an appropriate agricultural commodity board and/or farmer. Prior to writing the letter, students should prepare a list of things they wish to learn. Students may choose to write to more than one organization. A Sample Letter is provided with this lesson.
    • Included in their requests may be questions related to:
      • The production of the crop
      • The agricultural distribution of the crop (how the crop gets from the farm to the table)
      • Growing locations and conditions
      • Uses of the crop
      • The nutritional value of the crop
      • The importance of the commodity to California’s economy
    • Students may also ask for:
      • Informational brochures
      • Samples and/or pictures of the crop or product
  5. Approve the letters before the envelopes are sealed. Mail the letters and wait for a reply. Many organizations have e-mail. Some students may wish to e-mail their letter once it is proofread.

Activity 2:

  1. Upon receipt of materials from the Activity 1 letter, have the students write and send thank-you letters to the organizations that provided information. Be sure to have students proof the rough drafts of their letters and have you review them prior to sending. Remind students to write legibly and use proper letter format.
  2. The information and materials received from the agricultural commodity board should be assembled into a written report and used in an oral presentation. The written report should be proofed for grammar, spelling, and organization before making a final copy which is typed or written legibly and includes quotes or paraphrasing of information from various sources. Credit should be given to all references. The written report may include:
    • A map of California with growing areas highlighted
    • A creative schematic drawing of how the commodity gets from the farm, where it is grown, to the table, where it is eaten
    • Interesting facts and products
    • Nutritional information
    • Information about the importance of the crop to California’s economy
    • Brochures, pictures, or other supporting materials
  3. Have each group of students give a three-to-five-minute “expert” oral presentation explaining what they have learned about agriculture in California and the specific commodity that they have researched. Encourage creative presentations which may include television commercials, plays, editorials, news reports, poems, or interviews. Prior to the formal presentation, students should practice their reports orally focusing on volume, pitch, and appropriate body gestures.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation: 

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts: 

  • Food is produced on a farm.
  • Fruits and vegetables grow from plants, trees, and vines.
  • After fruits and vegetables are produced on a farm, they can be purchased as whole produce or made into various products like ketchup, syrup, jam, juices etc.

We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

  • Have students choose one of the crops studied and include it in one of their meals at home. Students then summarize their experience and send their summary to the organization that provided information.

  • Take a field trip to a farmers market, the produce section of a local supermarket, or a local produce vendor. Observe how California crops are marketed.

  • Encourage students to identify recipes that showcase their selected California commodity. Visit the Champions for Change website for recipes that feature California-grown produce.

  • Learn about careers involved in each step of Farm to Table. Have students research opportunities in production agriculture, food processing, marketing, retail, and transportation of commodities. Add careers to the Distribution Process handout.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Food, Health, and Lifestyle

  • Diagram the path of production for a processed product, from farm to table (T3.3-5.b)

Education Content Standards


K-4 Geography Standard 11: The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.

  • Objective 1
    Objective 1
    People engage in economic activities, such as producing goods and offering services, in order to earn a living.
  • Objective 2
    Objective 2
    Some locations are better suited than others to provide certain goods and services.
  • Objective 3
    Objective 3
    People and countries trade locally produced goods and services for goods and services that are produced in other places.

K-4 Geography Standard 5: That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.

  • Objective 1
    Objective 1
    Regions are areas of Earth's surface with unifying physical and/or human characteristics.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

Language: Anchor Standards

    Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
    Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


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