In a state where 92% of land is reserved for agriculture, officials with the local Farm Bureau worry Dubuque kids are too far removed from the fields.
Thursday, at the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA “Cool School,” Dubuque County Farm Bureau education outreach coordinator Rachel Myers had a chance to address that concern. She provided about 60 kids an interactive lesson on seeds and plants.
Myers started with the basics: Seeds need warmth and water.
“They’re just little babies that need the right stuff to grow,” she explained.
To see for themselves, kids made “living seed necklaces,” placing sweet corn seeds in small plastic bags with water beads. When worn on string, the body contributes warmth. Post-germination, the kids can plant the seeds in soil.
Myers ended her lecture with a lesson on where corn and soybeans go post-harvest. She said some goes into human foods, like cereal and tortilla chips. Even more is used to feed animals or shipped elsewhere.
Myers said it was important for kids to understand the various crop uses, including ethanol production.
Farmer Randy Pancratz, a Dubuque County Farm Bureau board member, came to watch. Later in the summer, the kids will learn about dairy production on his farm.
“I don’t think they have any idea where the milk comes from,” he said of the mostly city-dwelling students.
True enough, Samson Stone said he had never been to a farm. But he does think about where milk comes from “sometimes when I’m bored.”
He said farmers help the environment by growing plants that produce oxygen via photosynthesis.
Classmate Mya Taylor said she also thought farming was good for pollinating insects.
She had previously been to a farm on a first-grade field trip, but did learn something new from Myers.
“I learned that nutrients is not one of the first things you get at first as you start a plant,” she said.
Myers said one goal of the programming is to break down what she sees as misconceptions about farming. Over several sessions, she will cover a wide range of topics with the kids, including protecting soil and water.
Another goal is to get kids interested in the agriculture industry.
Industrial farming has many issues — from water contamination to soil degradation — that the students’ generation could help turn around.
Pancratz said it was particularly important for kids to learn about conservation. He planted 15 acres of pollinator-friendly plants on his own land, he said. He thinks people should know about overuse of pesticides.
“It kills the bad bugs,” he said. “But guess what? It kills the good stuff, too. ... We have to get out of the mindset that chemicals are going to solve all the problems.”