It’s all about ag
By KRISS NELSON
EAGLE GROVE – As many as 800 fifth-graders from Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Webster and Wright counties had the opportunity to learn about the impact agriculture has on their lives during the 2019 Youth Environmental Agriculture Days held earlier this month.
The 24th annual event is held each year at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Eagle Grove.
“Teachers like it,” said Jessica Norman, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach youth coordinator for Wright County. “It’s a hands-on learning experience that covers a lot of different topics from robots to DNA to the water table. It gives kids that visual to see and the hands-on to try.”
Seven sessions cover chemical safety, the importance of water, the food cycle and value-added agriculture, the life cycle of the egg to a chick, corn and soybean byproducts, biotechnology, and ag technology. Presenters include ISU Extension and Outreach staff, county conservation naturalists, NEW Cooperative and Bayer Crop Science.
Jim Patton, retired ISU Extension and Outreach regional director for Hamilton, Webster and Wright counties, said he helped to start the Youth Environmental Agriculture Days 24 years ago and still takes the opportunity to come back and help to teach the children.
“When we started this program, we realized a lot of our young people, they live with agriculture, but don’t understand how we use it,” he said. “The idea was to introduce things to them they have around them everyday that they eat, they wear and their parents or adults use in their cars, in the case of fuel, so that they have a better understanding of corn and soybeans; the thousands of acres we grow are actually used.”
Patton’s session, Food Fuel and Fiber, helped to do just that.
“I still think we have the situation that young people today still don’t understand all of the things we can do with our products and they are changing all of the time,” he said. “Every year I try to find new things. This year, I found some foods I didn’t realize had corn and soybeans. I have about 35 food items from a local store and many of these are probably in their own cupboards at home.”
In the ag technology session, Lindsay Kavanaugh, ISU Extension and Outreach county youth coordinator for Webster County, said the students were given the opportunity use robots and coding to simulate how farmers harvest corn and feed livestock.
“They’re learning how farmers are using different technology throughout their day,” she said.
“Using that technology is improving everyone’s life today,” said Kiersten Beilke, ISU Extension and Outreach county youth coordinator in Humboldt County.
For Layla Pruett, 11, of Webster City, the chemical safety session was a highlight.
“I liked to go to the schoolhouse to learn about chemicals,” she said. “That was fun. You should always wear protection and never touch the chemicals without any protection.”
Dean Getting, crop protection representative with Bayer Crop Science, presented 21st Century Ag, where the fifth-graders got a chance to extract DNA from a banana. He said the importance of learning about DNA, especially in plants, will help the students have a better understanding on what needs to be done in order to grow enough food on less land to feed the ever-growing population.
“Food, shelter and clothes all comes from agriculture,” he said. “There’s such a small percent of our earth’s surface that we can grow food on and right now we are covering those up.”
Jack Barner, 11, another Webster City student, said he was enjoying his day.
“I really like being out here because it’s agriculture and that is just fun,” he said.
Checkin’ Out Chickens was a favorite of Addison Weiss, 11, of Fort Dodge.
“I liked seeing the chickens and learning about them and how they grow and develop,” she said.
Weiss said she knows a lot about farming.
“It’s fun to get out of school for the day,” she said. “You don’t have to actually learn, but I am.”
Beilke said the Youth Environmental Agriculture Days provides great lessons for the students, especially those that may be not so familiar with agriculture.
“In today’s society, with our rural and urban communities, a lot of these kids don’t get the agriculture aspect,” she said. “So this is a great way for them to learn.”
“It’s good to expose them at this age,” Kavanaugh added. “They’re about to enter into middle school.”
Pruett, who said she enjoyed the snacks, summed up her overall experience.
“I think it’s pretty cool farmers can make stuff that we eat,” she said.
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