Suburban students go "Down on the Farm"

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — The root beer floats were a hit, the sprout sandwiches not so much.

Thursday was product day at the 72 House at Falcon Ridge Middle School. Students spent a week learning more about agriculture and on Thursday, they were able to sample products from the commodities they were learning about.

The alfalfa specialists got sprout sandwiches, the dairy specialists got root beer floats and the hog specialists tasted SPAM.

It was a big day as the students finished their farm story boards and got ready for the finale on Friday when a roll of the dice would determine their farm profitability. A six could mean 120 bushel per acre corn or $10 per bushel for soybeans. A three could mean an alfalfa yield of seven tons per acre or $12.10 milk prices.

Students had already figured their estimated profit on their livestock and crop enterprises. They figured the actual numbers after the roll of the dice.


"Down on the Farm" began in 1994 with a Minnesota Ag in the Classroom grant and has grown to be an anticipated week. The school receives donations from agribusinesses, ag and commodity groups to help cover expenses. Promotional items are also sent, with several students at this suburban school sporting farm caps and teachers wearing farm-related T-shirts. Minnesota Ag in the Classroom also provided a $250 grant this year to help cover expenses.

With all the budget cuts, it’s fun to do farm week, Varoon Pazhyanur said. There’s product samples, cap, pencil and eraser giveaways, a field trip and guest speakers.

It’s also a learning experience.

Cooper Lorsung said he visited a farm where the cows are milked three times a day, with the farmer rising at 2:30 a.m. for the 3 a.m. milking.

"It seems like a lot of hard work," Lorsung said.

His only other exposure to a cow was at the Minnesota Zoo.

At the Triple O Dairy, he "stuck his finger in the thing that sucks the milk from the cow."

"I saw a cow poop," said Sam Selvig.


Others saw piglets being born and had their hand sucked by a calf.

Zach Driscoll said he had never thought about how milk got to his glass. He never thought about the time and effort that went into taking care of cows, milking cows, processing and delivering the milk.

At school, they watched several agricultural videos. They watched a video of a cow being artificially inseminated and of three calf births: A c-section, regular and a calf being pulled. They watched a video on how a beef animal is slaughtered.

The video gave Marquise Diamond pause. She was supposed to have steak for supper and she didn’t know if she’d eat it or not.

But the students said it was important to learn about agriculture.

"It’s an important part of America," Lorsung said.

Pazhyanur agreed, saying agriculture effects everyone because it’s where people get their food.

Their end of week comments were a lot different than when they started farm week, teacher Mary Hoffman said.


"These kids were clueless," she said. "It’s been an eye opener for a lot of them."

They learn the whole process, be it milk from cow to cup, or beef from hoof to plate.

This is her second year of teaching farm week.

"It was an eye opener, let me tell you," she said, as the students lined up to ask questions about their projects.

Falcon Ridge Middle School also has a lumberjack week in February when students learn about the lumber industry. Both weeks require the students to work in teams, said teacher Michelle Shaffner.

She works with the writers who put out a newsletter about farm week. She assigns some students to do interviews, others do artwork and others contribute recipes. They always write thank you letters to those they visit or who come speak to them.

What To Read Next
Get Local