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Kids Ag Day to break new ground in fall
Koelsch Ag Day
Clockwise from top left, Josh Koelsch, Kacey Koelsch, Lennon Koelsch and Ron Koelsch are looking forward to Barton County's Kids Ag Day this fall at Koelsch's Diamond K Farm. Josh Koelsch attended the first Ag Da 29 years ago as a fourth-grader; this year it's daughter Lennon's turn. - photo by Michael Gilmore

This year’s Kids Ag Day will be a special one for Great Bend farmer Josh Koelsch. 

Approaching its 30th year, the event brings area fourth-graders to a working farm. Kevin Mauler hosted Kids Ag Day at his 4M Farms for its first 10 years. Later on, Ron Koelsch at Diamond K and the late Roger Brining, at Brining Farms, were brought into the loop. The Great Bend Expo Complex was kept on stand-by, on the rare chances of rain.

For the Koelsches, however, the upcoming event has a generational flavor. Josh was a fourth-grader at Lincoln Elementary when the first Ag Day came to be and this year, his fourth-grade daughter will have the chance to attend. “It’s kind of amazing, considering that when this was started, no one knew if there would be one the next year,” Josh noted.

Over the years, however, a host of organizers and volunteers have come together to make sure that the event kept on going.

“We needed something ag”

Ron Koelsch remembers helping to organize the first Ag Day. “When we first started, we picked Kevin Mauler’s farm, 4M Farms, it had a huge water tank sitting there,: Ron said. “We told him that if he’d have it there for five years, we’d paint that water tank knowing that we’d never have to do that. Five years later, we were out there painting it and we put the Kids Ag Day symbol on it. 

“We’d use that as a backdrop for each of the hayrack ride photos of the kids there.”

Ron noted that after 10 years, Mauler’s youngest daughter was a fourth-grader and that year would be his last. “That’s when I started trading with him at our farm.”

Roger Brining’s place was added into the rotation later on.

“When were first looking at farmsteads, we wanted one with lots of room because back then we were looking for something that the fourth-graders could have all their own to do. The fifth- and sixth-graders had their own outings but the fourth-graders didn’t have anything. One of our group’s wife was a fourth-grade teacher, and that’s the direction that it went.”

The set-up

Getting volunteers to come out and give presentations wasn’t as much of a problem as having the space to do it in, and have a place for the kids all to eat lunch, Ron said. “My feeling is, we’re always willing to have anybody that wants to host it at their farm, but if there’s no place else to go, we’ll have it here.”

Amazingly, the event carried on pretty much as planned until 2018, when right before the event, the Diamond K received over 4 inches of rain. Everything was moved to the Great Bend Expo, which luckily was kept in mind as a backup.

Ag demonstrations were as varied as the aspects of ag itself. A favorite recurring demostration is the soil conservation station, where the fourth-graders would learn about soil erosion.

One year a local aerial sprayer flew his plane to the Diamond K, landed on 20th Road and then taxied the plane into a spot on the grass. “A milking demonstration was another good one,” Ron said.

Also in 2018, Jerry Esfeld from Farm Bureau and Lisa Edgett, a retired teacher, gave a “Thank a Farmer” presentation. Esfeld held up a bright red picture of an apple, and asked children to imagine it represented Earth. Then she pulled away three-fourths of the image, to represent the fact that three-fourths of the globe is covered by water and can’t be farmed. Her sliver of red became smaller and smaller as Esfeld subtracted the land unavailable for growing food: mountains, deserts, swamps and polar ice caps — not to mention the land used for human dwellings, recreation and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Edgett held a real apple, which she carved to similar proportions. She was left with just a sliver, since only 1/32 of the Earth’s surface has the potential to grow the food. Edgett reminded the students that farming only happens on the top layer, so she held up the peel of the 1/32 slice of apple.

“It takes 100 years to make one inch of topsoil,” she said. “This feeds the entire world.”

This year, Ron said that he hoped that the Ag Day gives the fourth-graders something to think about other than just a day out of the classroom. “The old image of a farmer in overalls chewing on a wheat stalk is long gone,” he said. “There’s a lot of things to do involving agriculture that don’t require somebody to farm. There’s precision ag, that uses computers; we have drones that map the fields. We have scientists that test the soils and develop new crop varieties. There are the extension agents that we rely on when we get in a bind.

“Hopefully, a day on the farm helps that to sink in.”

The generational perspective

Although he doesn’t have any mementos of the event, Josh Koelsch remembers his first Ag Day. “I thought it was great just to be able to go to another farm to see how they do things. It didn’t really matter that I lived on a farm. I guess I always knew that I’d be back on the farm one day.”

Daughter Lennon, whose home farm experiences include occasional rides with Dad on the tractor or in the combine, or around the grounds on a four-wheeler, agrees. “I think it’s just going to be great to come out and just look around and listen to what everybody has to say,” she said.

With the Expo as backup just in case of rain, the 2022 Kids Ag Day is slated for Sept. 9 at the Diamond K Farm.