Ag in the classroom draws 350
Roger Dale's familiar smile was present as he greeted fourth-grade students and instructors from Minneota, Madison, Marshall and Yellow Medicine East last week for the annual "Ag in the Classroom" event at the Minnesota West Vocational School in Granite Falls.
Minneota had two groups of fourth-graders in attendance.
"The (Minnesota West) students are on spring break," said Dale. "So they've let us use this nice facility the past (eight) years. We have so much more room now."
The next day's program included fourth-graders from Canby, Lakeview and Dawson-Boyd.
Volunteers took time to educate the fourth-graders on several different farm-related topics.
Nine different stations were set up. Students split into nine groups and went from one room to another for an approximate 20-minute session, with a break for milk and cookies and another break for lunch.
The stations included: Farm Safety, REC Electricity, Turkey, Soybeans, Corn, Beef, Dairy, Pork and Natural Resources Conservation Services.
One of the speakers for the Soil & Water Conservation District was Brooke Buysse of Ghent, who works out of the Clarkfield office for Yellow Medicine County.
Students impressed some of the speakers with their questions.
"They all seem to be interested and ask really good questions," said Jane Remiger, who operates Remiger Dairy Farm with her husband in Wood Lake. "We have been coming here to help for quite a few years now. I teach the kids that to have a good herd, you have to take good care of your animals."
Dale, 84, who lives in Hanley Falls, started the Ag in the Classroom program 30 years ago. He educated 20 students in a classroom with a simple soybean display. It has blossomed into an agricultural presentation over two days for over 350 students from 10-12 schools in three counties; Lyon, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine.
"I really like this. I've never been on a farm before and now I really want to visit one," said one boy while scurrying to his next session.
Dale stepped aside three years ago and allowed Carl Louwagie to take over running the Ag in the Classroom program, although Dale still enjoys attending and helping.
"Hard to stay away," Dale laughed. "We have this for fourth-graders because we feel that is the right age for what we are teaching."
Louwagie is a board member with the Yellow Medicine Corn Growers Association and was helping Dale at the event for several years when he was approached about the idea of taking over.
"I saw what a success this program was, so I was happy to join Roger and be a part of it," said Louwagie.
Students attending the program get a better understanding of the various aspects of agriculture.
"I think it's important for kids to learn where their food comes from," said Dale. "And we want them to learn not only where it comes from, but what all is involved in the process of planting, harvesting, raising animals from the time they are young until they go to market, and how to stay safe when working with machinery."
Instructors from each school received a complimentary "Teacher's Resource Box" that included a variety of educational information, as well as pencils, pens, erasers, bookmarks and more for the students.
"Each student gets a free t-shirt for attending," Dale pointed out. "All of the items given out are donated by the Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association, and Farm Bureau."