Ag Day takes the farm to the city

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — FFA members clad in fluorescent green shirts carrying poles adorned with a picture of an agricultural product grown in Minnesota greeted third graders streaming off school buses at the state fairgrounds.

Third-graders from Eden Lake Elementary in Eden Prairie touch a Saanen goat during Urban Ag Day on May 13 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Saanen goats produce one to two gallons of milk per day and are the largest dairy goat breed.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — FFA members clad in fluorescent green shirts carrying poles adorned with a picture of an agricultural product grown in Minnesota greeted third-graders streaming off school buses at the state fairgrounds.

The pole-carrying FFA'ers were group leaders at the second annual Urban Ag Day on May 13 on the Minnesota State fairgrounds.

About 100 FFA members in grades eight through 12, roughly 50 each from Morris Area and Dassel-Cokato FFAs, led the agricultural education program geared toward informing urban students who may have no firsthand knowledge of agriculture.

Dassel-Cokato junior Jacqui Martinez enjoyed her turn as a group leader, smiling at some of the cute stories the students shared with her during their lunch break.

"I like how much they take out of this because they're from the city," Martinez said.


Many of the children don't know where their food comes from before it arrives on the store shelf, she said, but after moving through the educational stations they have a glimpse behind the shelves.

Third-graders talked about how their shoes were made from steers, what the colors stood for on their water cycle bracelet and the plant pals many wore around their necks. Others were fascinated by the fact a turkey has 3,500 feathers and that toms puff themselves up to attract hens. They were shocked to hear a full-size combine resembling the toy one used in the presentation would cost $1.2 million. One thought the models used in the presentation were used by farmers.

The presentations were divided into three areas: Livestock, commodity groups and agricultural literacy. FFA members taught the agricultural literacy and livestock presentations. Commodity group volunteers taught at their stations.

At the livestock stations, FFA members competed with animals for attention. Third-graders reached their hands through panels to touch the animals, which came from the University of Minnesota and the Dassel-Cokato and Morris areas. While third-graders felt the goats, sheep, rabbit, cattle and swine, FFA members shared information about the animals.

Activities varied at the agricultural literacy stations. At one, third-graders dipped cotton balls in tubs of water while FFA members talked about germination and slipped a seed into the sopping cotton ball. The cotton ball was placed into a tiny plastic bag, a piece of ribbon was slipped through a hole in the bag and the students had a plant pal necklace to wear during the event and to later watch seed germination occur.

At another station, Morris Area senior Matt Munsterman asked third-graders if they knew what a green bean, cucumber, orange and apple had in common. All are pollinated by bees, he told them.

He guided them through a page in their Agriculture in the Classroom workbook, helping them to answer the questions of why worker bees only sting once and what other insects are black and yellow and mistaken for honey bees. Wasps and hornets answer the second question, and worker bees sting only once because they die after stinging. Students also tasted honey.

"It's delicious, I promise," Munsterman assured them.


Students from nine urban schools attended: Windom Dual Immersion, St. Michael Catholic, Richard Green Central, Cherokee Heights, Eden Lake, Mounds Park, Lyndale, Howe Community and Lake Nokomis, said Jacob Just, a Morris Area freshman who served as the on-site communications coordinator.

About 600 third-graders participated, up 125 from last year, said Natasha Mortenson, Morris Area FFA adviser.

The event would not be possible without the generous support of several donors, Mortenson said. AgriBank was their major sponsor and paid for all transportation. The West Central Area Cattlemen grilled and donated the hamburger served at lunch. Other sponsors included Riverview Dairy, pork producers and the Stevens County and Dassel-Cokato FFA alumni chapters.

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