Virginia Beach students score Farm Aid tickets

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(Tallwood High School geography teacher Jessica Windish, courtesy of Jessica Windish)

(Tallwood High School social studies teacher Jessica Windish, courtesy of Jessica Windish)

Thanks to some thorough studying and a resourceful teacher, 20 high school students from Tallwood and Bayside have free tickets to the Farm Aid concert Saturday, featuring musicians such as Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. And they might even meet the performers in  person.

Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization aiming to keep family farmers on the land by promoting food from family farms, according to its website. Its annual concert is slated for Sept. 17 in Bristow, Va. It was first organized by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985. More than three decades later, Farm Aid isn’t just a performance, though. For a Virginia Beach teacher, it’s a source of instructional material.

Jessica Windish, a social studies teacher at Tallwood High School, used Farm Aid’s website as a teaching tool for her students, to share information on topical issues in the agricultural industry. Recently, she contacted the organization to let them know about her educational use of the site. 

“I explained that I use the resources on the Farm Aid website when teaching because is has much in common with the curriculum that I teach,” Windish said in a Facebook message to Southside Daily.  “I thought it was a long shot, but worth trying. When I heard back, I was very happily surprised…and crazy excited!”

Farm Aid donated 20 tickets so she could reward students who aced their advanced placement exams in Human Geography. The winning students will view the show from a press box and be able to meet the musicians, a release said.

Windish believes the concert will be beneficial to the students for multiple reasons; students will meet farmers and learn about the challenges and results of modern farming practices, she said. But the musical aspect is also valuable.

“The concert portion of the festival is yet another opportunity for them to see that geography is everywhere,” Windish said in the message. “The music the artists play is wide ranging, but often has elements that highlight the folk culture of where they are from and certainly falls within the realm of pop culture. The push and pull of folk and pop culture is another item in the AP Human Geography curriculum.”

Roy Flanagan, a city agricultural extension agent, will also meet with the students Sept. 13 to discuss challenges currently facing local agriculture.

Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to support the family farm system of agriculture, according to its website.

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