Keeping over 350 third-graders interested and engaged is no small feat, but the Reno County Farm Bureau Association’s annual Farm2U event does just that.On Monday, March 20, 10 Hutchinson and South Hutchinson schools brought their third-graders to the Prairie Pavilion at the state fairgrounds. The day was filled with presentations from local producers, with the goal of connecting the children back to agriculture, or as the program description says helps “educate the young consumers of our products about WHAT we do and HOW we do it, to help provide the Four F’s [food, fiber, fuel, pharmaceutics] here at home and around the world.”In their school group, the kids got about three hours to rotate through six sessions and lunch. Subjects included grains and elevators, farm equipment, all the good things that come from beef, sheep shearing, and how pizza gets from farm to table, as well as a mobile dairy exhibit. Lunch was pizza, to help bring things full circle.
“There is a real disconnect from agriculture in our communities as more and more people are multiple generations removed from the farm,” said Austin Schweizer, Farm Bureau board president. “Much of the simple knowledge that we as farmers take for granted isn’t known by these kids. Helping the kids understand where their food comes from and the important role that agriculture plays in our county and state is the goal.”Michelle Pitts, county coordinator at the Farm Bureau, is excited for kids to learn tangible things, things as simple yet as memorable as “what the Kansas skyscrapers (grain elevators) are all around town.”As the Wiley Elementary group finished up at the transportation and elevator session after getting to stick their hands in tubs of millet, corn and wheat, several kids enthusiastically designated “the thingamajig!” (the model of the grain elevator) as the “coolest” thing they saw that day. One dreamed, “If I could have one in my house….”
The initial reactions to the sheep-shearing demonstration weren’t quite as positive — lots of “Eww! Gross! Oh my gosh!” — but as soon as they got to feel the wool and see that the sheep was fine after its “haircut,” their tone changed completely. The beef cow and calf got lots of awws, as did the giant farming equipment in a different way.“I really want them to understand where their food is coming from,” said Schweizer, “so that when they sit down to a meal they start to think about where the food came from and the farmer or farmers that helped grow and produce it.”Pitts agreed. “I hope the event will plant a seed in the students’ minds of what agriculture is and how important it is by how it touches their lives every day.”