If you can’t bring the kids to the farm, bring the farm to the kids.
That’s the basis behind the annual Ag Day event organized by Seymour High School FFA students.
Fifth-graders from Seymour public and parochial schools recently traveled to Cortland Elementary School to learn about farm animals, seed germination and why they should get involved with 4-H.
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Students rotated through different stations set up in the school’s gym, where FFA members used their leadership and public speaking skills to teach the next generation about the importance of agriculture.
Seymour Christian Academy teacher Cristy Null said she brought her class to Ag Day last year for the first time and was happy to return.
“Most of them live in the city, so this is a chance for them to get a better understanding of agriculture and what job opportunities are available in that field,” Null said of Wednesday’s event.
The highlight for the students is the animals, she said.
Even though FFA members put a lot of hard work into their presentations, the goats, rabbits, cows, sheep, pigs and even a puppy stole the show.
“The kids are able to see them up close and touch them,” Null said of the animals. “It’s that hands-on experience that they like.”
Alaina Mains, 11, said she was surprised to learn more than just milk and beef come from cows.
By-products, including glycerin and other fatty acids, and proteins from cows also are used to make dog food, candy, Jell-O, crayons, soap, shampoo, perfumes, toothbrushes and toothpaste and other personal hygiene products.
“I can’t believe they make deodorant from cows,” Alaina said. “That means I’m wearing cow under my armpits.”
Seymour High School senior Morgan Ritz explained that of a 1,200-pound cow, only 730 pounds are used to make hamburger, steaks and other cuts of beef.
“But we don’t want to waste the other parts,” she said.
Being an athlete and fan of sports, Ritz said cowhide can be used to produce many kinds of athletics equipment.
“One hide can make 12 basketballs, 18 volleyballs, 144 baseballs,” she said. “That’s a lot.”
Ritz raises and shows beef cattle. After her presentation, she let students pet her 5-week-old, bottle-fed Angus calf named Baby Vino.
When full grown, Vino will consume up to 24 pounds of hay and 24 gallons of water per day.
Moving on to the Jackson County Pork Producers booth, students learned pigs aren’t just dirty, smelly animals that like to roll around in the mud.
In fact, they are the fourth smartest animal on the planet behind humans, elephants and dolphins, said Kimmi Miller, who has grown up raising swine. Miller and fellow Pork Producer Brittany Hoevener talked about why pigs are one of the most underappreciated animals on the farm.
“There are two billion pigs in the world,” Miller said. “Like cows, they give us more than just meat.”
Null said she had never given much thought to pigs being intelligent.
“We really don’t give them much credit,” she said.
For pigs to be useful, they have to weigh between 250 and 289 pounds, at which time they can be butchered.
It usually takes between six and seven months before they are big enough, Miller said.
“Thank goodness we don’t gain weight that fast,” Null said, laughing.
Although she doesn’t live on a farm, Olivia Fletcher, 11, said she would like to because of all the animals for which she would be responsible.
“It would be fun, but it would be a lot of work, too,” she said.
Olivia said she liked the lambs the most, because they were the cutest and made the most noise.
“Baaaaaaa,” she said, imitating one of the three lambs on display.
FFA member Mollie Borcher-ding explained sheep have to be sheared of their wool to help keep them cool and healthy.
“But I like them when they have their wool,” said Lilly Deaton, 11. “They are so soft and fluffy.”
Besides getting up close with animals, students also had the chance to create their own corn germinating necklace. By placing corn kernels in a small plastic bag filled with hydro-gel, the kernels are supposed to sprout, at which time the students can take them out of the bag and plant them in the ground to grow their own corn.
The bags are attached to string so the children could wear them as necklaces.
“I had no idea corn could grow like this,” Lilly said.
Freshman Colin Sons and junior Jackson Boyt told students FFA is not just about farming but about learning skills and gaining experiences that will benefit them their whole lives.
“We have fun and become better leaders, more organized and responsible and better public speakers,” Sons said.
Sons is a longtime 4-H member and already had a background in farming and taking care of animals.
Boyt said this is his first year in FFA, and he plans to continue to be a part of the organization as a senior.
Even though he has no direct connection to farming, he said it doesn’t matter.
“Being in FFA is a great learning experience in a lot of ways,” he said. “There are so many opportunities out there that involve agriculture but have nothing to do with working on a farm. It’s definitely been worth it.”