Grade 3-5

Where Did You Come From?

Updated: August 24 2016,
Author: Mickey Ebert

In this multiple intelligences lesson the students figure out why the United States imports some goods that we can grow right here!


farmerUnited States farmers produce many fruits and vegetables. Production of fruits and vegetables in other countries also take place. In this lesson, the students will learn why there is international trade of fruits and vegetables. Because students might think that trading is something one does without using money (barter), it is important for them to know that trade between countries usually involve money.

Students will learn why California and Chile specialize in fruits and vegetables that can be traded in different seasons. This specialization leads to interdependence. When individuals or countries specialize, they concentrate their work resources in producing a few types of goods or services, instead of many. Interdependence means one country depends on another to provide the goods and services they want.

Learning Objectives

  • Discover that Florida specializes in growing certain fruits and vegetables.
  • Apply what they have learned about specialization in studying a different country.
  • Differentiate between imports and exports when comparing fruits and vegetables produced in the US and Chilean markets.
  • Understand that specialization makes countries more interdependent with each other.

Resource List


Complete the following interactive activity; then be prepared to share and discuss your responses with the class.

View Interactive Activity


  1. Do you like fruits?
    [Answers will vary.]
  2. Do you like vegetables?
    [Answers will vary.]
  3. Where do you get your fruits and vegetables?
    [Answers will vary.]
  4. Have you ever wondered where those fruits and vegetables come from?
    [Answers will vary.]
  5. Have you ever wondered how fruits and vegetables get to your store?
    [Answers will vary.]
  6. Tomatoes grow in the summer, but we can still buy tomatoes in the winter. Why?

Explain that the 50 states of the United States all have different weather. Some places are warm all the time, some places have rain almost every day, some places hardly ever have rain, and some places have snow all the time! Could apples grow in all those different places? Probably not – at least not unless the farmers there went to a great deal of trouble and expense. Apples must have rain and warm temperatures while the fruit is on the tree. So it would be very difficult and costly to try to grow apples in the desert or on top of high mountains.

Fruits and vegetables need special weather to grow just right. Refer to the list of top to see where they are grown. 

Bananas are grown mainly outside of the United States. To get a hint at where bananas are grown, refer to the from the Rainforest Alliance. Where are bananas grown? [Latin America, specifically Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras from the Reference Center site.]

Is Latin America the same place as those countries listed? [Yes, Latin America is normally thought of as countries in North America, South America, or Central America where Spanish, Portuguese, or French are spoken.]

Lots of fruits and vegetables are grown in Florida, including oranges and grapefruit. Have the students go back to the Fresh from Florida website and list five other fruits and vegetables that are grown in Florida. Have the students make a list.

 Ask the students why Florida is such a good place to grow all these fruits and vegetables. [Florida has a good climate to grow fruits and vegetables.]

Ask your students why bananas were not on the list. [The reason that Florida does not grow a lot of bananas is that Florida SPECIALIZES in growing other fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. In other words, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, papayas, and mangoes grow so easily in Florida that it would not make sense to try to grow bananas, since they grow easily in Latin America. The climate that citrus fruits need is not exactly the climate that bananas need in order to grow. Although bananas can be grown in Florida, they grow much better in Latin America. So people in the United States IMPORT bananas.]

IMPORTS are goods or services bought from sellers in another country. We import bananas because Latin America has the right resources to grow bananas easily.
We EXPORT citrus fruits and other fruits and vegetables. EXPORTS of fruits and vegetables mean that they are grown in the United States but sold to buyers in other countries. We export oranges because Florida and California have the right resources to grow oranges easily.

Producers in Florida SPECIALIZE when they decide to grow citrus fruits instead of bananas. When countries SPECIALIZE they put their resources to work to produce a few things instead of using their resources to produce a lot of things. Specialization leads to INTERDEPENDENCE. Interdependence means being dependent on other countries to produce what you don't. The more countries specialize and trade, the more interdependent they become. Latin America SPECIALIZES in growing bananas. Can you think of a country that SPECIALIZES in growing coffee? You may have seen an advertisement that says coffee is grown in Colombia by Juan Valdez. Juan Valdez is just a character used in an advertisement to sell coffee. Colombia has the right resources for growing coffee easily. Those resources include the right weather, the right soil, and just the right temperature of mountain water in which to wash the beans. Do you think Colombia imports or exports coffee? [Exports]

[Note: Here is one way to help students remember the distinction between imports and exports. When a country brings something IN, it is IMporting. IN and IM have similar sounds. When a country EXports, it makes the product EXit from that country.]


Because the United States imports goods and services, people in the United States can have fruits and vegetables, from other countries, all year long. Because the United States exports goods and services, people in other countries are able to eat fruits like blueberries and apples that they do not grow in their own country. SPECIALIZATION helps people in many different countries to trade with one another.


Complete the interactive activity. This activity can be printed or discussed in order to provide assessment.

View Interactive Activity

  1. In which season are Americans likely to import fruit from Chile?
  2. Tell how the United States is interdependent with Colombia.
    [Each country specializes in producers different fruits and vegetables and trade these products with each other. In order to consume a given amount of goods each country is reliant on the trade they make with one another.]
  3. What would happen if Colombia stopped exporting their goods to America?
    [Americans will have to produce the goods they no longer trade for, or look elsewhere for opportunities to trade.]