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Middle-schoolers learn agriculture appreciation

By Staff | May 7, 2010

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner ABOVE: Karen Hansen, Webster County naturalist, gesturing on far left, eplains to Fair Oaks Middle School fifth-graders how various types of ground cover helps to retain water and prevent soil erosion.

EAGLE GROVE – Leah Helvik said she enjoyed extracting the DNA of a banana.

Cearra Prince said she enjoyed the strawberry smoothie, complete with tofu, that was served.

Shelby Habben enjoyed learning about all the “everyday” products that are made from corn and soybeans.

Mikayla Peters said she just “enjoyed the science thing.”

All four are fifth-graders at Fair Oaks Middle School in Fort Dodge. They joined other classmates Tuesday for a daylong Youth Environmental Agriculture Days event held at the Wright County Fairgrounds.

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner Brian Peterson, an area grain producer representing the corn and soybean growers associations, work with pupils to discover food items that contain either corn or soybean products.

Tuesday was the first day of the 10-day event that will eventually see fifth-graders from Wright, Humboldt, Hamilton and Webster counties spending a day learning an appreciation for agriculture.

The fifth-graders participated in seven different sessions, each 25 minutes in length, during the day. Topics include how 4-H has an impact on agriculture, the importance of water and environmental conservation, the food cycle and value-added agriculture, the positive and negative effects of the sun, corn and soybean by-products, 21st Century agriculture using biotechnology and Iowa’s diverse sources of energy.

The session presenters include ISU Extension county, field and state staff; county conservation naturalists and other volunteers.

Karen Hanson, Webster County naturalist, led the pupils through an example of how proper land management can control erosion and keep ground water safe from pollutants.

Area grain producer Brian Peterson represented the corn and soybean growers associations, leading pupils to discover the many food and non-edible household products that are made from corn.

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner Webster County fifth-graders look over a flowing water model showing the effects of a stream as it flows across a model farm. Leading the demonstration, in foreground and gesturing, is Karen Hansen, Webster County naturalist.

Bryan Whaley, the Iowa State University Extension youth program specialist for Region 7, said this is the 15th consecutive year for the program.

“We have a lot of partners,” he said, “and it takes a lot of sponsors for an event like this.”

He added that since Iowa has experienced an urbanization shift in the farm culture over the past 15 years, “we have more kids who have lost touch with agriculture. We want them to appreciate the science and the math that goes into being a successful farmer.”

Whaley said that the program’s overall goal “is to help them understand the ag industry and to value the importance of agriculture in their lives.”

When asked what she learned that she didn’t realize before going through the course, Cearra Prince replied, “That everything we eat comes from the soil in one way or another.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, or kersh@farm-news.com.

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