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FFA'ers bring the farm to the classroom

WORTHINGTON -- Fifth-graders at Prairie Elementary spent a portion of their day Wednesday in an outdoor classroom, thanks to the Worthington FFA Chapter-sponsored Ag Day.

Each year, FFA members bring in farm animals and samples of crops to teach the youngsters about agriculture production and the FFA. Stations set up in the parking lot featured short programs on horse, dairy, goats and poultry; small animal care; and corn and soybean production.

"Some of (the students) aren't from farms, so we give them general information to get them exposed to different aspects of agriculture and FFA in general," said WHS FFA President Kelsey Fellows. She said Ag Day is presented to fifth-graders so that when they get older, they might consider enrolling in agriculture classes and joining the FFA organization. Students in District 518 may enroll in an introductory agriculture course as an eighth-grader, while FFA participation is open to freshmen and older students.

"Agriculture is nice. I want to take it when I get to high school," said Alex Tang after listening to a pair of FFA members discuss dairy production with the aid of twin Holstein calves.

At the dairy station, located inside a cattle trailer, students learned what a cow eats and about milk production, and also that the mother of the calves weighed about 1,500 pounds.

In the southeast corner of the parking lot, Cheyenne Marco and Aaron Schultz were talking to students about turkey and chicken production, respectively.

"Where's Paycheck?" asked one boy who had obviously attended King Turkey Day last Saturday. It wasn't Paycheck, but an 11-week-old, white-colored hen that students greeted instead.

Marco explained to the students that only hen turkeys are raised on their farm because they are easier to raise, less territorial, and the meat they produce tastes better because it doesn't contain the levels of testosterone present in tom, or male, turkeys. All of the birds raised on the Marco farm are processed and end up on a family's dinner table, she added.

Students learned about the rigorous testing done on the turkeys to ensure they are disease-free and are a safe product for human consumption, and also the reasons for clipping the upper beak on a turkey -- to prevent the birds pecking one another and causing injury. They also had an opportunity to try holding the turkey by the legs.

"The legs are kind of nasty -- they're like slimy," declared Chelsey Madrigal after holding the bird.

Not everyone, however, was as willing to hold -- or even pet -- the turkey. One boy said he didn't want to pet the bird for fear he would get the bird flu.

"You guys don't have to worry, there's been no reported case of bird flu in America," Marco responded.

Just as Marco concluded her presentation, Schultz brought out a large rooster and asked the students, "What kind of eggs does this lay?" as he moved aside to reveal a flat of both white and brown eggs.

This particular group of students couldn't be outwitted, however, and they shouted, "None." Of course, roosters don't lay eggs, only hens do.

Schultz brought a hen to Ag Day as well, and explained the difference in brown and white eggs -- aside from the obvious answer, color. Brown eggs, he said, contain more protein and should, therefore, be healthier for humans.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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