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Ag Days teaches new generation

By Staff | May 8, 2009

Kaley Faser, a fifth-grade student at St. Edmond, acts as distributor as her classmates look on in the “From the Farm to You” seminar, which was part of the 14th Annual Environmental and Agriculture Days presented by Iowa State University Extension on Wednesday.

EAGLE GROVE – Who knew so many of the food products we consume on a daily basis are produced, manufactured, marketed and sold right here in Iowa?

Not fifth-grade students Kaley Feser or Rachael Willerth from St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge until Wednesday. The pair were part of the group that participated in the 14th annual Environmental and Agriculture Days presented by Iowa State University Extension at the Wright County Fairgrounds.

“It was so cool,” Feser and Willerth said. The “it” was their first session, “From the Farm to You.” For this teaching lesson, students made the chain of producer, processor, distributor, marketer and consumer.

Kids learned that products from local farms – such as milk, corn, wheat and meat – are the raw material of many foods that end up in Iowa-based brands, like Blue Bunny ice cream, Barilla pasta and Anderson Erickson dairy products.

“I had no idea all of this came from Iowa,” 10-year-old Feser said.

-Farm News photo by Lindsey Ory SE Webster school students examine a tree April 29 on the Wright County Fairgrounds with John Eveland, Humboldt County Extension director. The students decided there was some damage done to the tree at the base from a mower or weedeater that accidentally cut into the bark allowing bugs and disease to enter.

“I learned what value added agriculture is,” Willerth, age 11, said.

Iowa State Extension educators wants to instill this sense of agricultural value in kids as it becomes easier and easier to forget where food comes from and how it is produced.

“A lot of kids now don’t have agriculture classes or farm experiences to learn where food comes from or how it is processed,” said John Eveland, Extension education director for Humboldt County. “We hope they retain a lot of this information.”

The program runs for two weeks throughout various counties in Iowa. By the end of two weeks, 1,000 students will have attended the seminars in northwest Iowa alone.

This means 1,000 kids will be “WOW’ed” by presenters like David Stephen whos gives the seminar titled “WOW!”

Stephen’s work with an apple was definitely enough to elicit wows from the young crowd. With the shiny red fruit, Stephen explained farmers’ greatest challenge: to feed a growing population with shrinking amounts of land.

After slicing the apple, Stephen peeled the skin off.

“This is all the land farmers are left with,” Stephen’s said, “just a thin little piece of land to grow food for 6 billion people and animals.”

Students found out that Iowa rises to this challenge every year and is either the second or third largest agricultural exporter because of its black, nutrient-rich soil. California is always number one, and Iowa and Texas switch back and forth, he said.

This was new to Luke Nielson, a fifth-grade student at Gilmore City, who is in his second year of 4-H.

“I didn’t know that we were second or third place every year,” Nielson said.

While Nielson was being educated about Iowa soils, Southeast Webster-Grand students were learning about Iowa trees.

“Oaks are the state tree,” Eveland said. “They were also a very popular wood to use for railroad ties because they are so durable.”

But it seems all trees are durable, as Eveland showed students examples of tree bark encompassing fencing wire.

“When this young tree was growing, it caught up to the fence the cambium (the growing part of the trunk) layer grew around the fencing wire and eventually covered it up,” Eveland said. “In fact, if you go to Exira, Iowa, at the intersection of Highway 71 and Interstate 80 there is a little park with a big oak tree.”

As the story goes, a farmer was plowing his field in 1865 when he decided to leave his plow and join in the Civil War. He unhooked his horse and leaned the plow against a young oak tree. The farmer died in battle, and no one knew about the plow. The tree grew around the plow.

“Now if you go visit the tree you can see the plow on one side of the tree,” Eveland said, “and the two handles stick out of the other side of the tree. In five to 10 years, the tree will totally enclose the plow, and no will be able to see it. The tree will look like an ordinary oak tree.”

Eleven-year-old Cameron Anderson. of Southeast Webster-Grand, never knew this.

“The tree presentation is my favorite so far,” Anderson said. “It’s cool that trees will pretty much grow over anything in its way.”

Other workshops the students participated in were “Sun Smart,” “Food, Fiber, Fuel,” “21st Century Agriculture” and “Why Water?”.

Contact Lindsey Ory at (515) 573-2141 or editor@messengernews.net

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