Our family volunteers with the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program. This is an ongoing effort to pair farm families with inner city elementary students so that the kids can learn a little bit about “where their food comes from”. I love this concept and have participated in the program for many years. This year, my favorite 16 year old brunette took over the pen pal letter writing responsibilities of our family’s involvement in the program.
Ashley Grace has spent the school year writing personal letters back and forth with each of the students in our assigned class. I think that she likely looks forward to receiving the letters from our 3rd graders just as much as they enjoy her replies. It is amazing what the kids ask, and the ongoing interaction is incredibly rewarding for all those involved. Quite simply, it is a win-win scenario.
We traveled to Omaha yesterday to visit our pen pal class. My public speaking, speech loving, letter writing teenager put together a power point presentation full of pictures and led the class in a discussion about our farm and how we grow food. We also brought a sample of my favorite farmer’s alfalfa dehy pellets and one of the casseroles that we feed our cattle.
The majority of these kids have never been west of Omaha, and only one boy in our class remembered ever seeing a corn field. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that kids in Nebraska (The Cornhusker State) have such little interaction with farming. But, the excitement and positive energy of the kids toward learning about our farm is truly awesome.
Here are a handful of questions that the kids asked:
- “Do you name your cattle? Does it hurt when you put the ear tag in their ear?” Earlier in the year, we had given each of the kids an ear tag and explained the number system that we use to trace our animals from birth to harvest, so this was a great time to talk about it again. Ashley Grace also talked about the fact that cattle do not have a large number of nerves in their ears so it really does not hurt very much when the ear tag is put in. She likened it to the kids getting their ears pierced which seemed to resonate well.
- “Have you ever fallen off of your horse?” Ashley Grace and Karyn were able to tell the story of when they both were riding my horse Dandy bareback (they were age 5 and 10) when he sidestepped and spooked and they fell off into the grass.
- We had a long discussion on how much cattle weigh: when they are born, when they leave the ranch where they were born and come to our farm, and when they go to make beef. Karyn weighs about 100# so we were able to use her as a measuring stick 🙂
- At the end one little girl asked,”Isn’t it sad that they have to die so that we can eat their meat?” I told her that our animals give us a great gift when they die. We had a really neat discussion after this about respecting that gift by cleaning our plates and not wasting our food. I was excited to see that many of the kids had obviously talked about food waste at home and had thoughts to share about it.
We were all a little bit sad when it was time for us to leave. The kids pleaded to be able to travel out to our farm, but unfortunately the 3 and ½ hour drive makes this logistically difficult. We promised to send more letters and pictures, and left them to their celebration of Dr. Seuss. I was very proud of Ashley Grace and Karyn – they did a wonderful job teaching and interacting with the kids. It is fun for me to see them learn how to “tell their story”.
If you are a farm family and are interested in participating in the program, you can find more information on this website. The urban classroom demand for “farm families” in Nebraska outnumbers the number of families willing to participate so please think about taking part in the program. It is a phenomenal way to give kids personal contact with their food. Agriculture in the Classroom is a national program so you can likely participate even if you live outside of the Cornhusker State.