CLARKFIELD - For more than a decade, area children have been learning about agriculture at the annual Ag in the Classroom event hosted by the Yellow Medicine County Corn and Soybean Growers Association. More than 220 elementary students from nine different schools took part in this week's event, which featured nine ag-related stations.
"This is the most kids we've ever had," said Roger Dale, who, along with Carl Louwagie, is a co-chairman for the event.
Dale said that three new schools - Minneota Elementary, St. Edward in Minneota and Samuel Lutheran School in Marshall - attended for the first time. The newcomers joined students from Dawson-Boyd, Clarkfield Area Charter School, Canby Elementary, Marshall Area Christian School, St. Peter Elementary in Canby and Yellow Medicine East.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Signe Christensen, Marshall Area Christian School fourth-grader, tries to pull as hard as she can on a rope that is attached to a scale and made to replicate the amount of strength needed to pull someone out of grain at the 2012 Ag in the Classroom event at the former Clarkfield School Tuesday.
Like many of the other area administrators, YME Superintendent Al Stoeckman is a strong advocate for agricultural education. He's impressed with the cooperation between the agricultural groups and the schools.
"It shows how we're all connected with the land and the food production and all that," Stoeckman said. "I think that's a message we need to show the next generation."
"What the kids get to learn too is that there's a lot more to agriculture than just a dirt farmer or a livestock farmer," Dale said. "There's a lot of agri-business."
Students learned about farm safety from Gene Stengel, YMC Farm Bureau president, and David Bergeson, representing the Lac qui Parle Valley Farm Bureau.
"All of us (presenters) are safety-minded, whether we're the soybean growers or corn growers," Stengel said. "We try to impress on the kids the importance of it."
The hands-on pinch press, designed to replicate what happens when fingers get caught in belts or chains that aren't covered with shields, did make quite an impression on the students.
"It was funny," Canby Elementary fourth-grader Dylan Bruns said of the carrot snapping. "It wouldn't be though if it was my finger."
The students also played Plinko trivia and found out that a tractor was the implement that caused the most fatalities a year.
"This is a very valuable day," said Deb Hoyme, a retired fourth-grade teacher who accompanied the Canby students. "I've been here many times. I'm so glad these people take the time to teach the kids about this. I think this session has the most lasting impact."
MACS third- and fourth-grade teacher Karen DeGraaf said her students especially liked the safety station. But more importantly, she believes the experience is educational.
"These are good presentations for the kids," DeGraaf said. "Every generation seems to be just a little bit more removed from agriculture."
The students also learned how much strength it takes to rescue a 165-pound adult stuck waist-deep in grain (325 pounds). Using a rope connected to a scale, students took turns seeing how much weight they could pull.
"It was kind of fun," said Kalib Greenman, fourth-grader from St. Peter School.
Green's classmate Denver Noyes recorded 122 pounds, one of the highest student totals of the day.
"I liked it," Noyes said.
At the conservation station, Ian Olson and Kurt Johnson divided the group into two and asked them to figure out how old a particular red oak tree was when it was cut down. One group of Dawson-Boyd students counted 83 rings, while the other guessed 71. The tree was 85 years old.
"The SCS (Soil Conservation Services) talk about water quality and planting trees to help the air," Dale said. "They do an excellent job."
In the pork/swine station with presenters Carolyn and Jonathan Olson of Cottonwood, students learned that a pig valve can be transplanted into a human. There were also turkey, beef and dairy stations.
"I learned about dairy products," MACS student Mikiah Anderson said. "I got to learn about how, if cows' ears are drooping, they don't feel good."
Mitch Brusven and Doug Albin, past state president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, presented on corn, which students learned could be found in which items as batteries, glue, pillows, packing peanuts, crayons and shampoo.
"I learned about corn," Anderson said. "There's a lot of corn in stuff."
Albin told the students that corn is the most important crop in America and the second-most important in the world.
"I learned that if you plant one kernel of corn, you get 800 back," MACS student Emma Petersen said. "It's like he gives you one penny and you get 800 back."
Both Anderson and Petersen enjoyed the soybean station, presented by Curt Hoffman, Derek Buesing and David Lanners, president of the YMC Soybean Growers Association.
"We got a baby soybean necklace," Anderson said. "Once they sprout, you open it up."
Lanners said he was impressed with the knowledge the students brought to the table.
"The kids have asked a lot of questions in my soybean station, whether being a farm kid or a city kid," Lanners said. "Many of them are interesting questions that keep us on our toes."
Travis Engels, Minneota fourth-grader, said he "learned that soybeans make a lot of things."
Afterward, the kids enjoyed a cookie filled with candy-covered soybeans.
"They're so good the kids don't even notice they are soybeans," Lanners said.
Some people just don't know where things come from, Lanners said, so that's the main focus of the educational day.
"If they take home just an item or two and say they learned this or that at Ag in the Classroom, we feel like we've accomplished something," he said. "Hopefully, we carry on this tradition."
Ag in the Classroom has been instrumental to a number of people, including Patrick Bukowski, who, like a number of other fellow YME FFA students clad in their official blue jackets, helped out at the event for the second straight year.
" I did Ag in the Classroom when I was younger and I just liked it," Bukowski said. "I've been in FFA since ninth grade. I like meeting the people and just coming here every year, knowing the presenters and showing the kids around."