Farm News staff writer
GILMORE CITY – For an elementary student like Jakob Jeske, few days of the school year are as thrilling as a field trip to Glenn Davis’s dairy farm near Gilmore City.
“This is awesome,” said Jeske, as he scampered from the barn to go see some chickens in a nearby pen. When asked if he had learned a lot, the energetic 6-year-old from Eagle Grove shouted “yes!”
Jeske was one of nearly 320 children from a number of area schools who had the opportunity to tour the farm, interact with live animals, enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride and eat lunch in the country on May 4. Kate Orness, a kindergarten teacher from St. Mary’s in Humboldt, sees tremendous value in this opportunity.
“Even though we live in Iowa, many of these children have never been on a farm before. Having hands-on learning experiences like this is great, because that’s how kids learn best.”
Students were surprised that a dairy cow needs to drink the amount of water contained in a full bathtub to produce eight to 10 gallons of milk, said Dr. Tim Fakler, director of nutrition at Kerber Milling Co. in Emmetsburg. Fakler also used samples of real feed to explain how important it is for dairy cows to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals to thrive, just as children need a balanced diet to stay healthy. “You try to explain things in terms that kids can understand. Lots of these kids drink milk, and now they know where it comes from.”
Davis, who runs the only dairy in Humboldt County, started inviting local grade-school students to his farm about four years ago.
The annual event, which started with 60 students, has grown to include more than 300 students.
“I love the dairy business and farming,” said Davis, who runs a 76-cow dairy and sells his milk to AMPI in Sanborn, where it is made into cheese. “The more we can educate people of all ages about the dairy industry and agriculture in general, the better.”
Davis and his family coordinate with a number of organizations to make the field day a success. AMPI donates cheese curds and string cheese, while Anderson Erickson supplies half pints of milk for the kids’ lunch.
Commodity organizations like the Midwest Dairy Association help supply pencils, stickers, coloring books and other items in the goodie bag that each student receives. The Davises also rely on a network of friends and neighbors who volunteer in a variety of capacities, from bringing their llamas to the farm to baking Holstein-shaped cookies for the kids to enjoy.
Angie Anderson, who grew up near the Davis’s Century Farm, was one of the first local teachers to see the value in bringing students to the field day.
“The kids get so much out of this unique event, and they literally talk about for years,” said Anderson, a first-grade teacher in Eagle Grove, who added that the farm visit helps reinforce the material taught in the farm animals unit in kindergarten.
Parents like Tracy Thurm, of Humboldt, are grateful that their children can be part of this educational opportunity. “We’re city people, and we never get the chance to visit a real farm. It’s really great of the Davis family to share this experience with first-graders like my son, Joshua.”
The farm field trip is a learning experience for many of the teachers, as well, added Amy Gotto, who teaches first grade at St. Mary’s in Humboldt. “Even though I grew up in Algona, I’ve never been on a dairy farm before. I’m learning right along with the kids, and I can’t wait to do this again next year.”
This sentiment was echoed by Deb Riecks, of Humboldt, who accompanied her daughter, TeraAnne, 6, on the field trip. “So many people today have lost touch with agriculture, and this field day shows kids what real life on the farm is like. This is an awesome experience, and I hope the schools continue to take advantage of this.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at email@example.com.
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