When in-person education was abruptly suspended with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020, New Mexico Ag in the Classroom (NMAITC) Program Coordinator Britney Lardner created “Breakfast with Brit,” a weekly livestream broadcast from her kitchen via NMAITC’s Facebook account. “Breakfast with Brit” was open to students of any age and featured lessons and cooking demonstrations that showcased the many free resources NMAITC offers.
NMAITC is part of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Foundation.
Using a recipe as a hook, the livestreams were geared toward connecting consumers, especially students and their parents, with how their food was grown and where in New Mexico and elsewhere in the U.S. it came from.
The lessons and activities in the livestream series came from the New Mexico Ag in the Classroom website/ National Ag in the Classroom Curriculum Matrix, as well as American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture resources.
For state and national rankings in production, Lardner tapped into the ag statistics bulletin distributed by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to help highlight New Mexico agriculture’s production size and the variety of commodities grown in different parts of the state.
Lardner also provided STEM-based challenges related to the weekly recipes.
“Being able to bring the science, technology, engineering and mathematical components to breakfast was a lot of fun. Many people don’t realize that STEM is a part of our meals,” Lardner said.
Sharing easily understandable nutrition facts was also a big part of the series.
“We made rainbow smoothies one day, which allowed me to talk about the various nutrients in colorful produce like spinach and blueberries,” she explained.
Lardner used virtual flyers to promote the week’s recipe and theme. And tapping into her creative skills, she drew her own ag fact posters that complemented the topic. Though her kitchen was the primary set for the livestreams, Lardner broadcasted with Kim O’Byrne, a New Mexico middle school agri-science teacher, from her classroom, and interviewed pumpkin farmer Andrew Graves on his farm in Roswell. The on-theme recipe for that visit: pumpkin pie in a bag.
Viewership for the livestream was strong, reaching beyond New Mexico to Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states, and the number of comments on the videos indicated high interest. Along with engagement, Lardner’s goals for “Breakfast with Brit” included encouraging laughter and fostering a sense of community and connection when many people were struggling with feelings of isolation.
Lardner encouraged fellow agriculture advocates who want to do something similar to dive right in.
“It can be intimidating to ‘go live,’ but you will settle into a groove,” Lardner said.
Some of her beginner tips include having a friend or family member involved, either as part of the livestream or in the comments section. Having someone help out with some of the more technical aspects, like monitoring and responding to comments, is very helpful, too.
And, as Lardner pointed out, distance is not an obstacle to collaboration.
Though NMAITC Director Traci Curry is located in Las Cruces, in the southern part of the state, and Lardner is based in Albuquerque, in the central part of the state, they worked very well together.
“Traci was a big help when it came to fielding questions, uploading helpful links, and letting me know if the screen was having technical issues,” Lardner said.
Tapping into your passion for the subject and being yourself go a long way as well.
“You’ve just got to start and have some fun with it,” Lardner urged.
“Breakfast with Brit” garnered New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau a 2021 New Horizon Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The award, which honors state Farm Bureaus with the most innovative new programs, is presented annually at the AFBF Annual Convention.