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Looking at ag up close

By Staff | Apr 23, 2016

Jeremy Viles, a resource conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s office in Rockwell City, shows South Central Calhoun Middle School students how different land management practices impact soil erosion and water quality. Viles was one of nearly a dozen speakers who presented at the Calhoun County Farm Bureau’s Ag Day 2016 to show students the many careers available in agriculture.

ROCKWELL CITY -Ask a classroom of South Central Calhoun seventh-grade students how many of them have a dog, and most kids raise their hands.

Ask how many might want to be a veterinarian, and a large number still raise their hands.

Only a couple hands go up, however, when Dr. Paul Armbrecht asked students how many of them love math and science.

“If you’re going to be a veterinarian, you’ll need 12 years of math, science and other classes, along with a strong level of commitment,” said Armbrecht, a Calhoun County resident who has practiced veterinary medicine for 46 years.

This real-world perspective of ag careers defines Ag Day 2016, which the Calhoun County Farm Bureau hosted at the SCC middle school Tuesday. Throughout the daylong event, about a dozen local ag professionals offered 25-minute educational programs on corn, soybeans, beef, conservation, ag trivia, international ag, precision agriculture, veterinary medicine, ag banking, ag mechanics and ag engineering.

Dr. Paul Armbrecht, who has practiced veterinary medicine for 46 years, showed preserved pig fetuses to seventh-grade students at South Central Calhoun Middle School during the Calhoun County Farm Bureau’s Ag Day 2016 program. Armbrecht explained the realities of a career in veterinary medicine.

Calhoun County Farm Bureau board members Ben Albright, who farms near Lytton, and Brandon Betten, who farms near Jolley, described the basics of beef cattle production and explained the farm-to-fork connection. When the farmers asked the students to guess how many cattle are in Iowa, the most common answer was 100.

In fact, the total cattle inventory in Iowa includes more than 3.9 million head, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data from January 2016.

“It’s important to help people understand more about farming and see how much work it takes to get food from the farm to their plate,” Albright said. “Ag Day offers a good opportunity to help teachers and students connect with local farmers and learn more about Iowa agriculture.”

Albright and his fellow presenters also explained why math, writing, science and other classes are important in ag careers.

“I really appreciated this,” said Sara Pibal, an SCC middle school math teacher. “I also liked how the presenters covered a variety of topics and showed the kids how agriculture is an important part of everyday life.”

“Yours to explore”

Students had the opportunity to ask presenters a wide range of questions, from “How did you get started in your career?” to “What do you like about your job?”

“I like the freedom that comes with farming,” said Nick Burley, a Calhoun County Farm Bureau board member who explained the basics of GPS technology and precision ag on his farming operation near Lake City.

Other presenters, such as Andrew Lauver, a sales promoter/certified services agent with DuPont Pioneer, challenged students to explore the world of agriculture beyond Iowa. Lauver, a Calhoun County Farm Bureau board member who also farms near Rockwell City, detailed his experiences working for Pioneer in Canada.

During the international ag program, students also learned about agriculture in Costa Rica and the importance of U.S. ag exports to nations around the globe, including South Korea and Vietnam.

“The world of agriculture is yours to explore,” said Lauver, who encouraged students to find mentors as they continue their education and choose a career path.

SCC students’ interest in Ag Day was tremendous, according to Jill Mims, Iowa State University Extension’s county youth coordinator for Calhoun County. “The kids really enjoyed this experience.”

Mims helped coordinate Ag Day, which has become an annual tradition in Calhoun County.

“They had many positive comments about the things they learned.”

Keeping students connected to farming and food production is priority for the Calhoun County Farm Bureau.

“I was extremely impressed by the interest in agriculture exhibited by the students,” Lauver said. “It’s great that SCC gives students this opportunity to learn more about agriculture and the important role it plays here in Calhoun County and beyond.”

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