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New York Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

American Farmers Count! Census 2020

Grade Level
3 - 5

Students compare and contrast the differences between the Census of Agriculture and the decennial census. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time
1.5-2 hours
Materials Needed


Activity 1: Family History

Activity 2: American Farmers Count!


agribusiness: the business of agricultural production; the range of businesses related to producing, processing, and distributing agricultural products

census: official process of counting the number of people in a country, city, or town and collecting information about them

colonist: a person who helps to create a colony

equipment: supplies or tools needed for a special purpose

population: the number of people who live in a place

rural: of or relating to the country and the people who live there instead of the city

Background Agricultural Connections

In order to survive, we must eat! In early America, most people were farmers. They grew their own food. The first colonists in the New World tried to farm the land like they had in Europe. It didn't work, and they nearly starved. They had to learn to farm like the natives and grow the crops that would grow well here.

Today, fewer than 2 percent of the people in this country live on a farm or ranch. Most people do not grow their own food. One American farmer today can feed about 165 people. Twenty-four million Americans have jobs involved in agriculture. These jobs are called agribusiness. Agribusiness includes people who grow, process, deliver, and sell food. It also includes people who teach agriculture in colleges. It includes scientists who study insects and diseases that affect our food. It includes bankers who loan money to farmers and ranchers so they can buy the equipment they need, such as tractors. It includes the people who build and sell that equipment. It even includes the truckers who haul the cattle to market, the florist who sells a dozen red roses, and the check-out clerk at the grocery store. How do we know these numbers? The Census of Agriculture is used to find out how many farmers there are in the United States. It also finds out what crops and animals are grown in the United States.

The Census of Agriculture is not the first census used in the United States. The first census, which counts everyone in the nation, is called the decennial census. This census was first taken in 1790 and is still used today. It is a count of every person living in the United States. The Constitution mandates that the country counts its population, or people, once every 10 years. Filling out the census is the law, not just our civic duty. The census serves as the basis for fair political representation. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the United States has counted its people since 1790. Census Day is April 1, 2020.

The census tells us how many people live in the United States. It is important that every person who lives in the U.S. to be counted. This helps make sure the government can provide money to each community. The census is used to help decide funding for schools, parks, roads, members of congress, and more. In 1790, 95% of Americans lived in rural areas. This means they lived in the country. Today, only 19% of Americans live in rural areas.

  1. Ask the students, "What is a census?" 
  2. After listening to the student ideas, view the video What is the 2020 Census?
  3. Explain to the students that they will be looking at the similarities and differences between the Census of Agriculture and the decennial census.
Explore and Explain

Activity 1: Family History

  1. Discuss the term genealogy with the class. Explain that genealogy is the history of a particular family, showing how the different members of the family are related to each other.
  2. Ask the students, "What are some reasons to learn about your family's history?" Discuss the following possible reasons:
    • It gives you a connection to your heritage.
    • It can help you trace genetics and family health patterns.
    • It can help you develop a sense of personal identity.
    • It can help you discover family connections to historical events.
    • It can help to preserve family stories.
  3. Discuss the term agribusiness with the class. Explain that agribusiness is the business or industry of farming or agriculture and includes people that grow, process, deliver, and sell food, people who teach about agriculture, scientists who study food and farming, bankers who lend money to farmers, and people who build farming equipment.
  4. Provide each student with the Family Tree and Family Map activity sheets. Explain how to develop a family tree for this activity:
    • Gather information about your family (names of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, the state they lived in as an adult, whether or not they worked in agribusiness). Ask members of your family to help.
    • Record the information on the Family Tree activity sheet.
    • Draw stars next to the names of family members who live(d) on a farm.
    • Circle the names of family members who work(ed) in agribusiness.
    • After completing the Family Tree, transfer the information to the Family Map.
  5. Provide each student with the Family Data Comparison. Have each student choose one of their relatives who lived in a different state to compare that state's data with their own state using the Census Data Webpage. If all of their relatives lived in the same state as them, they may choose a state that interests them for the comparison. Have the students use their age to compare the data and complete the table. (If the student is 9, they will use the data for 9 year olds. The age of their family member does not matter.)
  6. When the tables are complete, ask students to share their findings.
  7. As a class, predict the data for the 2020 Census. Use the following questions to guide the process:
    • Do you think the population will increase or decrease in 2020? Why?
    • Do you think there will be more or less students your age?
    • Based on the states our class researched, which state do you think will have the largest population? The smallest?
    • Which state researched has been a state the longest? Create a timeline to compare statehood dates.
    • How are the population and the number of people per square mile related?
    • Do you think the number of ice cream stores will increase or decrease?
  8. Ask the students to write and share a question they wish the census would ask.

Activity 2: American Farmers Count!

  1. Have the students read the American Farmers Count! Reading Page either individually, with a partner, or as a class.
  2. Instruct the students to fill out the American Farmers Count! Comprehension Page.
  3. Discuss how the Census of Agriculture and the decennial census are alike and different.
  4. Discuss the importance of each census.
  5. Discuss why participation in Census 2020 is the law and not just our duty.
  • If students have family members involved in agriculture-related work, invite them to visit the class to answer students' questions about their work. Students can ask the speaker(s) questions about daily chores. Students can also produce written or tape-recorded interviews of family members who have lived on a farm/ranch operation or who work in agribusiness. They can write reports or produce PowerPoint presentations based on the interviews and share them with classmates or another class.


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

  • A census is an official process of counting the number of people in a country, city, or town and collecting information about them.
  • Census Day is April 1, 2020.
  • The Census of Agriculture is used to find out how many farmers there are in the United States. It also finds out what crops and animals are grown in the United States.
Recommended Companion Resources
Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom
Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom
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