The usually empty grounds behind Byron-Bergen Elementary School bustled with action on June 2, 2022. It’s Farm Day. The annual event invites local farmers, many of whom have student participants in the FFA or 4-H, to bring livestock to the school campus. This day-long event is designed to acquaint the rest of the student body with local agriculture production.
“The goal is to make sure the students know about various domestic animals that they may not have come across,” said Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor Jeff Parnapy. “Only 2% of the United States population takes part in production agriculture. That leaves 98%, so it’s a good guess that, even in a rural community, some kids haven’t been exposed to anything like this.”
Among the animals present are cows, rabbits, pigs, sheep, and a horse, as well as an enormous tractor and informational booths to educate about animal nutrition and the difference between hay and straw. A dark brown cow let out a resonate moo. “Not all cows are that vocal,” says Byron-Bergen senior and FFA President Rachel Best. “This one has only mooed once in two years.” She gestures to the cow beside whom she is sitting.
Best’s chocolate-brown cow is pregnant and rests on the grass. After the calf is born, this cow will go into milk production. A group of kindergarteners approach the cow, who sits calmly while they stroke its back and Best describes dairy farming. Her fellow student volunteers stand with their animals and displays, ready to help the elementary students connect the dots between these animals and the food they eat.
“It’s a good opportunity to show kids different animals,” said seventh grade student Audrey Dorman. Dorman stands with her Hereford calf named Rosie. Rosie, a beef cow, is less than two months old but Dorman has plans to show her at the County Fair.
Across the grounds, students pet a Kunekune pig belonging to eighth grade student GJ Donofrio. “They originated from New Zealand. He’s six-months-old but he’s a heritage pig.” Donofrio explains how his heritage pig will grow at half the speed as the pigs in the next pen over. Those pigs are being raised for meat and the students petting them comment on their love of bacon.
However, not all animals at Farm Day are raised for food production.
Sixth grade student Jillian Weaver monitors a line of younger students waiting to groom her 11-year-old Paint Horse, Sadie. Weaver started riding horses at age three and currently show jumps with Sadie. “I like the horse the best because it’s soft,” said Kindergarten student Olivia Kerwin. She has spent time with her uncle’s horses and excitedly gets back in line to groom Sadie again.
“It’s an important event so our kids can see the area in which they live represented in a positive light,” said Kindergarten Teacher Ayn Gardner. “They drive by these farms every day, but they don’t get a chance to get in and explore. This gives them an opportunity to see what their future could hold if this interests them.”
Later in the day, all the elementary students enjoyed a cheese snack, purchased by the Student Council, made with milk from cows very much like the one they pet just hours before.