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Worthington FFA members lead Ag Day at local middle school (with video)

JULIE BUNTJER/DAILY GLOBE Fifth-graders pet an hours-old Holstein dairy calf during Ag Day recently at Worthington Middle School.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Why are chicken legs called drumsticks?

Which cows produce chocolate milk?

Those were just a couple of the questions posed to FFA members during an FFA-led Ag Day recently at Worthington Middle School.

More than 200 fifth-graders rotated through stations to learn about everything from corn and soybean production to raising cattle, goats and chickens. The annual event is organized by ninth- through 12th-grade FFA members in Worthington High School.

At a time when many kids no longer have a connection to the farm, Worthington High School FFA Advisor Deb Martin said it is important for young people to not only learn about where their food comes from, but that it is raised by farmers who care for their livestock. Ag Day is also a good experience for FFA members, who created their own displays, planned their presentations and had several opportunities to practice their public speaking skills.

Inside a livestock trailer, brothers Greg and Nick Newman shared their knowledge of cattle production with the younger students. Using instruments most kids -- not to mention a good share of adults -- have never seen, Greg held up a dehorner and asked the students what it was used for. Most were too timid to answer, but when they learned the handheld contraption was used to remove horns from calves so they don't hurt each other, or humans, they had all sorts of questions.

At that particular station, the kids also saw an implant gun, balling gun, bander and ear tagger, and passed around a clear zippered baggie filled with silage. The Newmans encouraged the kids to take a whiff of the corn mixture.

"Oh my gosh, that smells good!" exclaimed one boy, while a girl said, "It smells like spice and candy."

At another station, the kids saw a corn plant that hadn't been chopped into silage or combined for livestock feed. They learned that silk helps pollinate the plant to produce ears of corn and passed around buckets filled with corn kernels and soybeans.

Ryan Lee, a WHS junior and FFA member, shared with fifth-graders all of the different products derived from corn. The long list included everything from corn chips and ethanol to latex paint, paper plates, shaving cream and, of course, livestock feed. He also mentioned that Minnesota joins Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska as the top four corn-producing states in the country.

Brothers Jeremy and Josh Majerus offered a quick quiz to every student stopping by their station. With a few chickens clucking in pens and a display of freshly picked chicken eggs, the brothers asked the students what three products come from the birds. The answer: Eggs, meat and feathers.

Jeremy Majerus talked about the cracked corn and oat mixture fed to their chickens, as well as the ground oyster shells that, when added to an egg-laying hen's diet, provides the added calcium for the hen so her eggs have strong shells.

With more than 25 billion chickens in the world, Jeremy said there's more chickens than people.

As the fifth-graders moved from station to station, petting an hours-old dairy calf and a Boer goat, Martin said Ag Day is an important promotional tool for agriculture and the FFA.

"I hope (the students) have an appreciation and an understanding of where their food comes from," she said.

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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