Move over, A-Rod. In playgrounds across America, kids still swap trading cards of baseball players, NFL running backs, and Pokémon characters. Until recently, though, none of those decks contained farmers. But one devoted Washington Nationals fan, Becky Domokos-Bays, 62, also happens to be the Director of School Nutrition Services in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Two years ago, Domokos-Bays and her team were brainstorming ways to get students interested in local produce when they struck upon the novel concept. And last April, on the opening day of baseball season, fifth graders in the county’s public schools received a total of 72,000 cards—doled out in partial sets to encourage trading—featuring 12 area ag heroes. A joint project of the school district and the Loudoun County Economic Development Department, tied to a USDA Farm to School planning grant, the cards sport photos of farmers on the front and “stats,” such as crops grown, on the back. Tyler Wegmeyer, who cultivates pumpkins and strawberries on 250 acres in Hamilton, Virginia, was shocked to discover that one child traded a Tom Brady card for his, a fact he gleaned from his 8-year-old son, Tucker.
Other organizations in the region have replicated the idea, among them Maryland’s Montgomery County Office of Agriculture and FreshFarm, which runs farmers markets in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit DC Greens, focused on increasing access to fresh food in our nation’s capital, also has a set in the works. “The whole thing has proved popular beyond our expectations,” says Domokos-Bays, adding that farmers have already started campaigning to be included in the next set, due in elementary school cafeterias countywide this April.