This past Friday, the 3rd and 4th grade hallways at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School were abuzz with children laughing and imitating farm animals, with the occasional baa of an actual new lamb coming from one of the classrooms. Over the course of the morning at our Agriculture in the Classroom event, the students rotated through stations learning about the different aspects of farming in Otter Tail County, thanks to the efforts of local producers and natural resources staff who shared what a day of work looks like for them.

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2019 Ag in the Classroom

2019 Ag in the Classroom

April 8, 2019 by

This past Friday, the 3rd and 4th grade hallways at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School were abuzz with children laughing and imitating farm animals, with the occasional baa of an actual new lamb coming from one of the classrooms. Over the course of the morning, the students rotated through stations learning about the different aspects of farming in Otter Tail County, thanks to the efforts of local producers and natural resources staff who shared what a day of work looks like for them. This Agriculture in the Classroom event is held every two years in Perham, and gives students a look at the different aspects of agriculture in our community.

Among the most buzzed about stations are always the ones that include the chance to pet a baby animal, like Joe and Diane Sazama who raise sheep near Perham and bring in one of their fuzzy newborn lambs, and Mark Riestenberg who operates hog barn outside of town who brings in a bright pink pig that the kids pet, squealing themselves when they feel how bristly and rough it is. Sometimes Albert Werner brings in an angus calf from his farm near Richville, and the larger animal always gets the kids excited. Even just getting to touch and smell the different kinds of food that dairy cows eat, brought by Steve and Annette Gorentz, gets the kids excited.

While the baby animals are always a large attraction, kids always have favorites of the other stations as well. The groundwater model displayed by Aimee and Trisha of the SWCD explains all the water that is under our feet and what can impact it, and it is something so novel and not thought about it always gets a lot of questions and exclamations, including “I’m never drinking water again!” This leads to the explanation that our work with producers and landowners is to prevent gross things from getting into our drinking water. The crop station led by Nathan from the SWCD introduces a few of the various crops grown in our county, as well as opens their eyes to how many products out there actually contain corn in some form or another. Soils jeopardy, led by NRCS staff Troy and Jacob, always gets the kids jumping around the classroom, coming up with the answer to “How many years does it take to form an inch of topsoil?” (the correct answer is 500 years). It also illustrates the importance of taking care of our soil so that we can continue to grow crops sustainably. The students love to hear from the “older kids” from the Perham FFA group who talk about the importance of Farm Safety and what it means to be in FFA. This rounds out the stations at Ag in the Classroom, covering everything from the crops and livestock we grow to the natural resources needed to grow them, as well as how to be safe on a farm.

The day is filled with stories about calving season, that one cow who never behaved at milking, and what happens when you try and drive a tractor through a wet field. It also includes information about all the weird things out there that come from animals (someone always says “I’ll never eat hot dogs again”) as well as all the things that have soil or crop byproducts in them. In the end, the goal of the day is to teach the students about where their food and other products come from, that people in our community are working to get food on the table and make products that make our lives easier, and that these people are working hard to protect our soil and water resources all while running a successful farm. It’s always a fun day for the students, and a great chance to share what agriculture looks like in our community. A huge thank you goes out to the teachers who enthusiastically take a break from their regular class schedule to let the kids participate, as well as to all of the producers and staff who take time out of their busy workdays to share their experiences with the kids!

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