Barlow wins check for ag program

Published 9:33 pm Saturday, March 5, 2011

$2,500 donation: Suffolk farmer Shelley Barlow, left, and Karen Davis, executive director of the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, accept a $2,500 donation on Thursday from Bill Pritchett, a territory sales manager for Monsanto. The money will be used to purchase agriculture-related books for some Suffolk elementary schools.

As she and her husband prepare for a busy planting season, a Suffolk farmer took some time on Thursday to accept a check from an agricultural company in support of a charity that helps children learn about farms.

Shelley Barlow and her husband Joseph farm about 800 acres along Cherry Grove Road outside of Chuckatuck. They have been Monsanto customers since they started growing “Roundup Ready” cotton in about the year 2000, she said.

This year, Monsanto paid a little of her money back, giving her a $2,500 check on Thursday for her to donate to her favorite charity. And for Shelley Barlow, that means the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom got the money.

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Monsanto’s donation was part of a national program called “America’s Farmers Grow Communities,” presented by the Monsanto Fund. Through the program, nonprofit organizations all over the nation have been receiving checks, according to Bill Pritchett, a territory sales manager for the company.

“Monsanto is a 100-percent American-based agricultural company,” he said. “We wanted to give something back to the communities.”

Following a random drawing of qualified applicants from Suffolk, he said, Barlow’s application was chosen. The money will be used to provide sets of books about agriculture to eight different Suffolk schools, she said.

“We as farmers think it’s really important” to teach youngsters about farms, she said. “It’s a great program. The teachers are really receptive. It’s got great information, and it fits in with their SOLs.”

She’s such a big supporter of the program, in fact, that her woman’s club also is raising money for the same project. The goal is for all of Suffolk’s elementary schools to have the 20-book sets.

The Agriculture in the Classroom program also trains teachers in how to instruct children about farming in their communities.

Karen Davis, executive director of the Virginia organization, said 1,750 teachers have participated in workshops and programs sponsored by AITC. Some of those teachers, in fact have spent time at the Barlow farm at events designed to instruct them in how to train other teachers.

Shelley Barlow also has spent time meeting with area elementary school principals to explain how the program can help their teachers meet their standards of learning objectives. Her hope is that the word will get out within all of the city’s elementary schools.

“The teachers that know about it are very excited about it,” she said.