An outdoor classroom
For third-graders from Lyle and Pacelli schools, the visit to Darrell Ingvaldson's farm was as much a geography lesson as it was a class about where food comes from.
Ardis Jenson, a volunteer who works for Farm Bureau Financial Services, stood by a fence gate, behind which two Norfolk sheep stood by the Ingvaldson's barn.
Jenson quizzed the groups on their knowledge of sheep.
"What do they eat?" she asked.
"Grass," guessed one boy.
"In England, that's their lawnmowers," Jenson told the group. "They even have houses that have grass on the roof and they have sheep on the roof."
The quiz included questions and information about the things that sheep are used for, including wool and meat.
Ten minutes later, the third-graders were in front of a pen full of cattle. The geography lesson continued. Darrell Ingvaldson kept it going; those animals came to the United States from Switzerland and France, and they're used mainly for meat as well as dairy products.
The students from Lyle Public School and Pacelli Elementary School also got to learn about agriculture-related jobs and farm safety, including the amount of force needed to rescue a child from a grain bin, during their time on the Ingvaldsons' farm.
For them, it was the last stop of the day. For the Ingvaldsons and the volunteers, the group of 39 students and two teachers were the first of seven visits for the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Day on the Farm.
The day, as Jenson saw it, was meant to show children options and to encourage them to become farmers.
"It's not the 4-H and farm it used to be," she said.
Patty Ulland, a third-grade teacher at Pacelli, said the visits to the farms overlap into classroom lessons about habitat and plants.
The Lyle-Pacelli group was earliest, starting at Ray Sayles' dairy farm southeast of Austin shortly before 9 a.m., spending 30 minutes at that place, then heading north to Larry Gerlach's hog farm to spend another 30 minutes there before the bus pulled up at Ingvaldson's hobby farm.
Groups from each of Austin's four public elementary schools followed the Lyle-Pacelli kids. By the time the tour ended at 1 p.m., an estimated 436 third-graders had gone through all three farms.