“Most children don’t know that milk comes from cows.”
Even fewer have a clue bread is made from flour which comes from wheat, and saddest part is they’ve never given such things a thought or consideration.
Likely even the more serious thing is that a large majority of the parents don’t either.
High quality food is in ample supply at the super market, and fewer and fewer people know, or even care where it comes from.
There might be an occasional comment about an increase in the cost of milk or a loaf of bread, but concern ends right then.
As recent as a half century ago, everyone was involved in agriculture production one or another, or at least they had close relatives who were farmers, but that is not the case today.
Each generation becomes further removed from the agriculture land, and most know nothing whatsoever about where their delicious meals come from.
This is an apprehension among those who still do farm, come from agriculture backgrounds, and whose professions are tightly entwined in food production, today. Some talk about it, others ignore it, and a few are concerned enough that they’re taking action.
One such person is Don Peterson of Council Grove.
“Each year, fewer people are involved in agriculture, and more urban people have a serious lack of understanding where their food comes from, and little concern about how their food is grown,” Peterson reiterated.
“We can’t eliminate the problem, but we can try to minimize the dividing wall, and at least make those with the ‘I don’t care attitude’ think about how their food got to the table,” he insisted.
“Lack of knowledge about the origin of food among our youth and urban people is alarming. It definitely needs our united attention to increase understanding and acquaintance, an action program to be put on the front burner,” contended the former farmer-rancher, who remains closely tied to the agriculture industry through his Santa Fe Agricultural Services.
Peterson is the ramrod behind an Ag Camp being planned for urban youth this summer at White Memorial Camp, just north of Council Grove, Kansas, in the heart of the Flint Hills.
“Our intention is to ‘show and tell’ the city children where their food originates, and how it is grown. This is not a magic wand, but it will help to increase some understanding where there is no perception at present,” Peterson said.
Assisting Peterson in organizing the effort foremost are Jancy Pettit, director of White Memorial Camp, and the management group there.
Initial support is also being provided by Tri County Telephone, headquartered in Council Grove, along with the Council Grove FFA Chapter of USD 417, and the Flint Hills Extension District, comprised of Extension agents in Morris and Chase counties.
“This is a group effort, and it’s going to require lots of work and support to accomplish our goal. It’s not a one-time deal, nor a quick fix solution, but we should be starting a trend for people to increase an interest in, and an understanding of food production, and why that’s so important to every producer, and everybody who eats. That’s everybody,” Peterson said.
“If you eat, you’re involved in agriculture. Why don’t people in the city understand?” he questioned.
Two Ag Camps are now on the calendar. For juniors, third grade through sixth grade, camp is set for Sunday afternoon, Aug. 2, until Wednesday noon, Aug. 5, with seniors, sixth grade and up, attending Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 5, to Saturday noon, Aug. 8.
“We want this ‘enjoyable time education’ to be of reasonable cost to the camper, so they will tell their friend and get them interested in coming for next year’s Ag Camp,” Peterson said.
For “Early Bird” signups, the cost will be $90 for each camper. “Yes, this is below the actual cost,” Peterson admitted. “So, we are seeking sponsors who will help these campers learn about agriculture, farming and to appreciate the high quality food they eat.”
Tentative schedule for junior campers includes hands-on experience with small animals, an explanation of the animal and crop production cycles, visit animal operations and tour the Z Bar Ranch to view the Flint Hills native grasslands with cattle grazing along with a Buffalo herd, reflective of the way our country was more than 150 years ago, when the area was being settled.
A similar format is planned for senior campers with more in-depth learning about agriculture, associating and managing fundamentals of livestock and grain farm production operations, and exposure to technology involved in food production today including Global Positioning Systems, drones and infrared sensing, also with a tour of Z Bar Ranch.
“We’ll be spending time in the Heart of God’s Cathedral,” Peterson emphasized.
Agriculture tours and discussions are to incorporate dairying, meat and dairy goats, beef cattle, swine and crops, including corn, milo, soybeans, wheat and hay.
“Children will be accompanied each day by well-trained support staff from agriculture backgrounds with a counselor for about every six campers,” Peterson assured.
Each day will start with a farm fresh breakfast, and a video of farming and ranching operations similar to the ones that will be visited that day.
“Then, we will get on the bus and head to the country, for the hands-on experience of producing food on the farm and ranch,” Peterson said.
In brief, White Memorial Camp was established in 1964, on a tract of land given by the White Family to the Kansas/Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ, upon completion of Council Grove Reservoir.
“It is a peaceful setting, surrounded by water on three sides, right in the heart of the majestic Flint Hills,” Peterson said.
The dining hall, cabins and administration building are all constructed of native stone salvaged from the building sites now inundated by the reservoir.
Additional information about the Ag Camps including enrollment and sponsorships is available from Peterson at 620-767-6191, or e-mail [email protected], as well as White Memorial Camp at www.whitememorialcamp.com.