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Students get hands-on farm experience

Children and teachers enjoy a hayride during 4-H Farm Days (Critley King/The Reg

University Farms rolled out the red carpet for nearly 1,000 third graders from the Central Kentucky region last week with a 'Day at the Farm'. Given the number of visitors and high level of interest, the event took place at the Madison County Fairgrounds.

Farm Director, Justin McKinney, said, "EKU Farms accepted the invitation to talk to 900+ local third graders about our dairy and sheep operations over a span of two consecutive days at the Madison County Fairgrounds. The farm transported two dairy heifers (1-Holstein & 1-Brown Swiss) and several ewe lambs from our commercial Katahdin herd. Honored speakers included Dr. Ed Fredrickson, Associate Professor at EKU; Dr. Joan McKinney, Veterinarian; Ms. Marlen Hammond, EKU Farms Assistant Farm Manager; Ms. Darlene Stocker, CBT Outreach Coordinator; and Mr. Ted Herr, EKU Graduate Student. Each speaker spoke to the children about their area of expertise in the field of dairy and sheep. EKU Farms is looking forward to working with the Madison County UK Extension 4-H team in the future to impact the young lives of elementary students around Madison County."

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Read the full story below from Critley King at The Richmond Register.

Did you know that there are a billion microbes in one teaspoon of soil? Or that sometimes it can take three months after an egg is laid for it to make it to the grocery store?

These facts and more were learned by approximately 916 third graders during the 4-H Farm Days hosted Tuesday and Wednesday at the Madison County Fairgrounds.

The event, organized by Madison County 4-H, is in its fourth year and this year was the largest ever.

“We are exposing kids to agriculture,” said 4-H Agent Scott Darst. “Some children, even in third grade, don’t know where their food comes from.”

However, during 15-minute intervals at education stations, students spent Farm Days learning about animal and plant food production.

Learning was accomplished through various fun activities that included a wheelbarrow relay race, petting chickens, as well as interacting with goats, horses and dairy cows. Additionally, children heard brief presentations on growing pumpkins/gourds, aqua gardening, nutrition, soil and more. Hayrides were particularly popular as the experience was new for most children.

“Most students were surprised to learn the length of time it takes for food to make it to the grocery store, or for some, that milk comes from a cow,” said 4-H Agent Lisa Adams, noting teachers love Farm Days. “While students might not be getting in-depth knowledge about these things on the two days alone, many of these topics will be covered later in their classroom. So this is a glimpse of what is to come.”

Thanks to support from the Extension District Board, the event is completely free to participating schools, including the cost of running the buses, Adams said.

A few 4-H students from livestock groups stepped up to teach the younger children about agricultural topics. When asked what it is like having kids teaching kids, Darst said, “That’s what 4-H does—we grow leaders. We encourage them and they are doing a very good job teaching.”

4-H student Kyle Coffey, who served as a poultry instructor, said he is enjoying Farms Days even more now that he is teaching.

“I feel like more of a grownup,” he said, also emphasizing the importance of teaching kids at a young age. “They are our younger generation and some of them need to grow up to be farmers (so the career doesn’t die).”

Volunteers from Eastern Kentucky University’s Meadowbrook Farm and Recreation classes, and the Kentucky Farm Bureau Women’s Committee also helped staff the event.

For parents wanting to expand on lessons learned during Farm Days, or for children who want to learn more about agriculture, Adams said the Madison County Extension Office is a great place to start.

Horticulture and agriculture agents Amanda Sears and Brandon Sears, respectively, can work with families wanting to start small gardens, said Adams. Families thinking about growing their own food can bring up to 10 free soil samples to the Extension Office each year. Additionally children who want to delve deeper can find several 4-H groups or clubs to enhance their learning on various topics.

Parents should talk to children about where their food comes from, Adams said.

“Be willing to let them dig a hole in the yard, plant something and watch it grow. It’s best to start off with something they like. And even if they only grow one plant, there is a great sense of accomplishment in eating something you’ve grown,” she said.

Elementary schools that participated in 4-H Farms Days were Glenn Marshall, Shannon Johnson, Daniel Boone, White Hall, Kingston, Silver Creek, Waco, Berea Community and Kit Carson.

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Published on October 19, 2017

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