Ready to explore: Future farmers get an early taste of what ag has to offer

SIBLEY, Iowa -- The Sibley-Ocheyedan High School Agricultural Education department opened its doors Monday night to the next generation of farmers, veterinarians and future FFA members.

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Seventh- and eighth- grade students at Sibley-Ocheyedan take part in the S-O Agriculture Department and FFA chapter’s exploratory night. Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe

SIBLEY, Iowa - The Sibley-Ocheyedan High School Agricultural Education department opened its doors Monday night to the next generation of farmers, veterinarians and future FFA members.

Approximately 40 seventh- and eighth-grade students and their parents took part in the department’s first exploratory night. The event was designed to expose middle school students to educational opportunities that lie in store for them starting with the 2016-17 school year.
Earlier this year, FFA members paired with area businesses and members of the community to generate the money needed to cover the salary of a new ag ed teacher that would offer classes to both high school students as well as a whole new crop of kids - middle school students.
S-O Ag Education teacher and FFA advisor Brian Gottlob said timing issues barred the department from expanding into the middle school for the current school year. By the time funds were raised for the teaching position, class schedules were already in the works.

Monday’s exploratory night, however, along with three others to be hosted in the future, will offer students an opportunity to explore multiple facets of agriculture and allow teachers to determine what courses will be offered in both the middle and high school for next year.
Gottlob was quick to give credit for the night’s efforts to the students.
“This was all student-led,” Gottlob said. “I would sit down with students and brainstorm ideas … so the students came up with all of the ideas.”
Out of those brainstorming sessions, Monday’s event developed into five stations. Gottlob explained that one station was dedicated to small companion animals in the form of dog obedience, while a second station incorporated large companion animals in the form of a live horse. In addition to the horse, an on-site dairy cow provided youths with insight into dairy science, and a second cow gave a unique lesson on the beef industry.
Led by local veterinarian and school board member Dr. Daniel Berkland, students were able to observe an ultrasound performed on a bred cow. In another classroom, Dr. Loretta Berkland offered vaccination lessons and record keeping information on animals. Students were given the opportunity to “vaccinate’ a banana and place an ear tag on a plastic bag.
Meanwhile, yet another station gave students an opportunity to look inside a cow’s stomach and learn how the animal digests food and nutrients.
Seventh-grader Beau Jenness was excited about the opportunity to begin his agricultural education next year. Though he lives in town, he has had some experience on the farms of family members and wants to pursue raising livestock as a career.
The exploratory night was “great,” according to Jenness. He hopes to join the FFA and begin agriculture courses to lead others to the field.
“I want to help people get interested in agriculture,” Jenness shared.
“We had two goals when we did this,” Gottlob said. “One was ag education and literacy. … The second one is career exposure.”
On Jan. 11, students will learn about food science and ag processing in the second exploratory night. On March 21, students will discover their green thumbs with horticulture, plant science and agronomy. The final night, May 2, will feature students taking on ag technology.
Gottlob said students will hopefully have an opportunity to not only learn about new trends in technology, but have a chance to climb into a tractor or combine to experience the large vehicles involved in farming first hand.
Exploring agricultural education and participating in FFA is not just an exciting opportunity for the middle school students. The high school students involved in putting the exploration nights together are equally excited for the future of the ag education department, FFA and how the lessons learned there will carry over into other classrooms.
“This is going to benefit our entire school,” S-O FFA president Colby Wagenaar said. “I think things you learn in FFA contribute to … band, to your sports, and to your academics as well.”

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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