Local FFA members teach students about agricultureWORTHINGTON — A two-week-old Holstein bull calf was sprawled out in the sawdust inside the back end of a pick-up truck, eyes half-closed and content Thursday morning as Worthington High School FFA member Stephanie Behrens patted it into a slumber.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — A two-week-old Holstein bull calf was sprawled out in the sawdust inside the back end of a pick-up truck, eyes half-closed and content Thursday morning as Worthington High School FFA member Stephanie Behrens patted it into a slumber.
Crowded around outside the truck were fifth-graders from Worthington Middle School, doing what they could to keep warm in the 50-degree temperatures as they learned all about animal production and where their food comes from.
The annual Ag Day presentation gave FFA members an opportunity to share agriculture’s positive messages and teach the next generation of consumers about the care that goes into raising animals.
FFA’ers Ashly Kingery and Erin Pomranke held onto one-week-old Boer goats, Lollipop and Senõr, wrapped in rag rugs, and told students how the babies will drink their mom’s milk until they get older, when they will switch to eating corn and grass. Kingery then held up a package of goat cheese, called chevre, and described its flavor as something quite different from the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses most people eat.
Across the parking lot, Logan Neyens and Stuart Rogers were quizzing students on pork production.
Neyens flipped through photos of different swine breeds, from Berkshire to Yorkshire, Chester White and Hampshire.
“Farmers call them saddlebacks, too,” Neyens said of the kids of the black and white Hampshires.
“What is the top pork producing state?” Rogers asked, giving the group the options of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois.
It took four guesses, but someone finally cried out, “Iowa,” and was awarded with a small bag of candy.
Students also learned most pigs raised in this area are pink in color, that they are fed starter feed when they are young and that sows can give birth to nine to 13 piglets in one litter.
Before the kids left the presentation, they offered names for the nameless cutie — the most popular being Chuck and Wilbur.
Neyens said it was important to teach the middle schoolers about agriculture and pork production because many of them don’t live on a farm and some may have never seen a pig before.
“We’re teaching them how important (pigs) are,” he said. “The U.S. produces roughly 67 percent of the world’s pork (supply).”
At another educational station, Jordan Honken explained how ducks are raised on his family’s farm, from the incubation process for duck eggs to what ducklings and older ducks eat.
“Ducklings don’t really care if a chicken or a duck is taking care of them,” Honken said. He then showed students examples of duck and chicken eggs.
FFA members Rachael Terhark and Kayli Kuhl talked to middle schoolers about corn and soybean production, using plants they’d pulled from the field as props, along with ice cream buckets filled with corn kernels and soybeans.
“Corn is used in over 4,000 products in the grocery store,” Kuhl said, adding that it was likely in the cereal the kids ate for breakfast. Another important product made from corn is ethanol, and Kuhl explained that 60 pounds of corn can be processed into 2.7 gallons of the clean-burning, renewable fuel.
“Ethanol is so much better for the environment,” Kuhl said. “It’s going to help us save our oil reserve.”
Kuhl also explained the corn she had was much different from the sweet corn kids like to eat from the cob in late summer.
“This corn, if you cooked it and ate it, it would taste really bad,” she said.
Worthington FFA Advisor Deb Martin said Ag Day is conducted each year to give younger students a basic understanding of agriculture.
Recently, 11th-graders in Worthington’s ag class watched the film, “Food, Inc.,” and Martin said the students were rather upset by what they saw.
“This is what the public is learning, and they don’t know any different,” she said of the film that makes crop and livestock producers look bad. As for sharing agriculture’s positive message with the younger students, Martin said, “A lot of these kids are one, two or three generations removed from the farm … and they look up to high school kids — they’re good role models.”
In addition to sessions on cattle, chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, corn and soybeans, FFA members led sessions on dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits.