Fourth graders spend a day on the farm

For 20 plus years, Greene County Farm Bureau board members Tim and Vickie Robbins of rural Scranton have hosted a farm tour for all fourth grade students in the county. This year’s farm tour was held the morning of Thursday, April 21, with 111 students arriving at the Robbins farm for a fun-filled morning of learning and ag-related activities.

Vickie Robbins greeted each class and welcomed them to their farm northwest of Scranton. She told the students that she, her husband Tim, and sons Justin and Aaron own and operate their farm. Greene County Farm Bureau office assistants Bonnie Silbaugh and Marilyn Parker then gave each student a sticker that said “I Met A Farmer Today”.

Nine “hands-on” learning stations had been set up. The fourth graders rotated through each of the stations spending 15 minutes at each one. Presentations were done by volunteers or Horn O’Plenty FFA members. After each group of students had visited all nine stations, they went on a nature walk and then ate lunch at the farm. FFA instructor Katie Akers was also on hand and helped throughout the morning at many of the stations.

Three of the nine learning stations were new this year. Janelle Kracht of the Iowa Corn Growers Association hosted the corn bingo station. At this station, after learning about corn, students were divided into girls vs. boys and played bingo on a homemade corn bingo card (tarp) after answering questions about corn. Assisting Kracht at this station was FFA member Serenity Blair.

Another new station was the drone station that was extremely popular with the kids. Patrick Olmstead and Tonya Johnson from NEW Coop talked to the students about how drones are being used in agriculture. Olmstead then flew the drone around the students. They loved seeing the drone fly and were full of questions. FFA member Mariah Durlam helped at this station.

Last, but not least, regarding new stations was the station hosted by Tim Robbins. At his station was a John Deere front wheel assist tractor and a JD 24-row planter Robbins uses on the farm. Robbins, along with FFA member Eli Muir, talked to the kids about the progression of farming and how equipment, seed, and technology have enhanced how farmers farm today.

Justin Robbins
Justin Robbins

Another fun station was the cow/calf station where Justin Robbins talked about the responsibilities of having a cow/calf herd. FFA students at Justin’s station were Kasey Lane and Mac Adamson.

Presenters at the horticulture station were Emily Finch, Katelynn McDowell, Gwen Black, and Gina Brown. Students learned about planting seeds and had the opportunity to plant a marigold seed in a cup full of soil which they were able to take home.

Matt Saddoris (left) and Garret McDowell
Matt Saddoris (left) and Garret McDowell

Presenting at the farm safety station were FFA members Matt Saddoris and Garret McDowell. PTO dangers, ATV, and tractor/farm equipment safety were discussed with the students. A second part of this station included the dangers of flowing grain and grain bin safety. Leading this discussion were FFA members Mason Burkett and Wade Wuebker.

Back this year to present by popular demand was Will Fett, executive director for the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. At Fett’s learning station, he talked about soil erosion – water and soil conservation. He did a simple experiment on soil erosion which had a visual impact for the kids to see that demonstrated the relationship between precipitation, soil erosion, protection of water courses, and vegetation. It also illustrated the difference between bare soil, no-till, and cover crops. Also at this station, FFA member Abby Badger helped the kids make “cover crop monsters”. This activity connected what the students learned about cover crops to growing things.

Third year presenters were Carrie Kelley and Haylee Henke from the Iowa Soybean Association. Students learned about planting, growing, and harvesting soybeans and about the many uses of soybeans. With the help of FFA member Brian Rasmussen, students made soybean necklaces which they could wear.

At the GPS learning station hosted by Kayla Hyett, Greene County Extension Youth and 4-H coordinator, students used hand-held GPS units and followed coordinates to simulate how farmers use this technology when doing fieldwork whether it is spraying, planting, harvesting, or tillage work. Assisting Hyett was Taylor Wessling.

Mike Holden and Tanner Lawton from the Greene County Cattleman and Greene County Farm Bureau board member Randy Christensen grilled burgers for the students, teachers, FFA students, and volunteers. Lunch was served by board members Jim Giese, Tom Safley, Jason Reedy, Perry Parker, and John McCormick.

Greene County Farm Bureau thanked Farm Credit Services of America, Carroll office, for sponsoring lunch and providing ag day activity books to all students. Colleen Steinkamp, Robyn Brinker, Kristin Larsen, and Mark Miller from Farm Credit were present and also helped grill and serve lunch.

Farm Bureau also thanked the Cattleman for the use of their grill, Tim and Vickie Robbins for hosting this event every year, and all those who assisted in any way making the morning a huge success.

The Robbins’ goal is that students take with them the knowledge that in some way a farmer touches their life each and every day by what they eat, wear, and play with.

“Without volunteers, our local FFA club, and hard work and commitment from board members and office staff, this farm tour wouldn’t be possible,” said county president John McCormick.

Each student received an ag bag which contained a variety of ag information and gifts from various commodity and livestock producer associations. Each student also received a 2016 Greene County Farm Bureau ag tour t-shirt compliments of Greene County Farm Bureau.

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