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Ag Day - Farm Learning Comes To School
1030 Ag Day 1
Tank the draft horse thoroughly enjoys a scratch on the chin, even though its hard to reach for these primary grade students at Cloverland Elementary School on Oct. 25 at the schools sixth annual Ag Day Roundup. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Helping young students learn that the food they eat and the fibers they wear don’t come from the store, but that those things have their beginnings on the farm, is what Ag Day is about. With dedicated teacher organizers and supportive volunteer presenters, Fair Oaks and Cloverland elementary schools were able to bring the farm to their campuses on Oct. 25 at their Sixth Annual Ag Day Roundups.

Fair Oaks chairperson Megan Reisz and Cloverland chairperson Sue Moran, along with helpful committees, plan the Ag Days months in advance. Moran reported that she’s never been stood up by a presenter and never had a rainy day. She added that teachers often request the same presenters year after year because their students get a lot out of it.

At Cloverland, six-year presenter Karen Hoffman of Gentry Apiaries talked to students about beekeeping.

“We talk about how the bees make honey and talk about how the beekeepers get the honey from the hive to the grocery store,” she explained.

Hoffman used props such as a wood bee hive, a protective beekeepers hat and veil that she had students try on, and a special smoker which is used to help calm the bees whenever working in the hive.

“I think (Ag Day is) fantastic. There are so many kids in Oakdale that aren’t appreciating their Ag heritage here. This is a great way to introduce them,” Hoffman said.

Dr. Jody Hallstrom, a veterinarian at Oakdale’s Pioneer Equine Clinic has been an Ag Day presenter for four years. She talked about being a horse vet, the schooling needed to become a veterinarian, and what she does on a daily basis. Some of the demonstration material she used included various photos including one of horse surgery, an emergency leg splint, a bit-like contraption called a dental speculum, a horse skull, a horse leg, and an enterolith the size of a giant grapefruit. An enterolith is a mineralized stone, similar to a gall or kidney stone, formed in a horse’s colon. Hallstrom also showed the inside of her ambulatory vehicle, a specialized truck stocked with various types of equine medical equipment to be used during ranch calls.

“They’re usually pretty excited about getting to touch the stuff. They love seeing the inside of the truck – the needles, syringes, and equipment,” Hallstrom said of the students.

Hallstrom also gave each of the students a surgical cap and mask.

Cloverland had 21 presenters, three at each grade level, and three who were new presenters this year. One new presenter was Courtney Napier of Central Valley Ag Grinding in Oakdale, which produces dairy cattle feed from walnut, pistachio, and almond shells, fruit cups, grape pomace, potato chips, tomato waste, and sweet potatoes. They also accept yard waste from the public such as cut tree branches and they make fire-starting logs and landscape bark in a variety of colors with emission-free dyes. Another new presenter was Bambie Porter of Gypsy Cowgirl Kitchen who does canning and preserves. Another new presenter was Jacqueline Kisst of Ripon who is the California District 5 Dairy Princess and represents the counties of San Joaquin, Sacramento, El Dorado, Contra Costa, Yolo, Amador, Calaveras and Alpine.

Fair Oaks hosted 28 presenters this year. Some of the new presenters included: Lisa Moser, who presented about animals on the farm and Westport 4-H leader Nicole Menezes, whose presentation was about guinea pigs to the kindergarten classes; Dolly Hamby talked about chickens and Oakdale 4-H members, lead by Jennifer Chapin, presented to first graders; Joe Terra, a farrier, presented to second graders; Fair Oaks parent Trudy Vierra, presented on raising catfish, while Fair Oaks alumni and high school students Paige and Savannah Boster presented about rabbits to third graders; Melanie Hurst demonstrated Horsemanship to fourth grade students; and Candy Peterson, a grandparent to Fair Oaks students, presented about ranching to sixth graders.

“We are very lucky to have many presenters who have been with us the entire five years, and some that are returning from years past,” chairperson Reisz said. “Some of our regular presenters have things that come up and cannot make it, but we also make sure that they are on the contact list for next year.”

With support from the Parent Teacher Clubs, the presenters were also treated to special lunches at the schools’ Ag Days when they finished their presentations.

Ag Day was originally started in the school district at Magnolia Elementary School by teachers Nancy Osmundson and Diane Dickson because they felt students needed to learn more about agriculture and farming in the area. The pair organized and planned many Ag Days and then trained other teachers to host Ag Days at their respective elementary schools. Ag Days include a combination of indoor and outdoor presentations, including various types of livestock – many of which the students can touch, as well as herding dogs, beekeepers, plant doctors, veterinarians, cattle ranchers, dairy farmers, nut growers, plant nurseries, brand inspectors, soil scientists, and more. Magnolia and Sierra View elementary schools host their Ag Days in the late spring.