- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

The average American eats 53 pounds of bread each year, according to Kansas Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE). That translates into a whole lot of work for today's farmer, an important member of the food chain whose role continues to be critical as more people cram into the United States.

WIFE, a grass-roots organization, has spent 26 years explaining the importance of farming to anyone willing to listen. Its work helps the American farmer through lobbying for agriculture legislation, classroom programs and its promotions to the public and media.

One of its educational initiatives presents a simple Web site that helps teach children where that Big Mac came from and how an ear of corn gets to the dinner table.
Site address: www.cyberspaceag.com

Creator:

The Kansas chapter of WIFE, a national farm organization with members in more than 20 states, produces and has written all of the site's content.

Creator quotable:

"CyberSpace Farm was created to help explain Kansas agriculture. Members of Kansas Women Involved in Farm Economics wanted to tell the stories about Kansas farms and ranches in their own words, making it all come alive with their own experiences and through their own photos," says Mary Anne Stoskopf, Kansas WIFE member and Web site coordinator.

"We hope that visitors will learn that farming and ranching families are similar to their own families, working hard to build opportunities for family members and sharing many of the same concerns. We also wanted to provide factual information for those teachers, students and consumers looking for information about agriculture on the Internet."

Word from the Webwise:

Compared to such high-tech offerings as Muppet World (www.muppetworld.com) and Jurassic Park Institute (www.jpinstitute.com), CyberSpace Farm represents the Stone Age of Web site design. Visitors should not be put off, however; a great deal of information is contained within the pages.

Scroll down the front page, hosted by Tina Tractor, to find the site's primary sections, residing toward the bottom of the screen: CyberSpace Farm Visits, a place to read firsthand adventures on the farm; Cosmic Crops, an exploration of the plants that farmers grow in Kansas; Creature Features, knowledge about farm animals; CyberKids Playground, printable activities; CyberLibrary, a one-stop knowledge shop on farming resources; and Cosmic Cafe, out-of-this-world food ideas and nutritional tips.

CyberSpace Farm Visits, with its 26 photo albums, photo essays and Kansas WIFE essays, is a great place to learn all about the farming and ranch experience. Visitors will find entries addressing the specifics of harvesting wheat, why it takes three years to make a hamburger and, my favorite, a day in the life of a rancher's wife. This informative journal compares the entries of a married woman from a pioneer family in the year 1900 and her granddaughter writing in the year 2000. What a difference 100 years makes in both priorities and modern convenience.

For a taste of the wonderful depth of information presented in the site, I suggest stopping by Cosmic Crops for an immersion in the world of wheat, soybeans, corn, sunflowers and sorghum. Each plant area has several subsections, including Fun Facts, Short Histories, Fun Stuff and Foods to Grow On. I learned about tofu, how many pounds of corn fit into a bushel and that sorghum is a grass family native to Africa.

Other places of interest found throughout the site range from a CyberSpace Farm Glossary to a detailed illustration of the five food groups to the proper names of some common farm animals and I don't mean bacon, pork chops or pot roast.

Ease of use:

CyberSpace Farm contains mostly text-based links and quick-loading photos and no "difficult to load" programming. Almost any speed Internet connection and computer with browser will be able to quickly peruse the entire site. Much of the information is cross-linked through numerous sections, but a search engine and site map would be helpful.

Don't miss:

Being concerned about nutrition, I appreciated the Cosmic Cafe and its helpful illustrations and tables about food. In addition to a dissection of a current food label, visitors will find a handy way to measure portions, a list of what children 2 to 10 years old should be eating and a calcium wheel that compares the amounts of calcium in different foods.

Family activity:

The whole clan will enjoy the nice selection of recipes to go with its new knowledge about food. Stop by the Cosmic Cafe again and find Tina's favorites: graham-cracker muffins, rolled-wheat spice cake, banana-cranberry-pecan bread and Grandma's potato biscuits.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The site works great as a resource for a school report or aid to elementary school teachers, but younger children will get bored pretty quickly with the simple illustrations and primarily text-based information.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).



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