Mike Burnham’s horse, Pistol, was a nervous volunteer for Wednesday’s shoeing demonstration.
“If you’ve never been kicked by a horse, you may get the opportunity today,” Burnham warned his audience of fourth-grade students. The children kept their distance and watched attentively as Burnham showed them the tools of a farrier and explained why horses need shoes in the first place.
His was one of several demonstrations presented at the annual Kids Ag Day, a project of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce’s ag committee. It was the 20th year for the event, which allows fourth graders to spend a day on a modern farm.
Ag committee chairman David LeRoy said 340 children, from all of the schools in Barton County and Otis, attended the event at the Kevin Mauler farm. The Maulers hosted Kids Ag Day for 10 consecutive years, then started alternating years with another local farmer, Ron Koelsch. This will be his final year, Mauler said, but Kids Ag Day will continue, alternating between the Koelsches and Roger Brining.
It takes a couple of weeks each summer to prepare the grounds for hundreds of visitors, Mauler said. An awesome group of volunteers takes care of the rest.
LeRoy estimates 60 adult volunteers pitch in, along with another 30 FFA members from Great Bend High School, who operate the petting zoo. “It wouldn’t work without all the sponsors and volunteers,” he said. “We appreciate all they’ve done.”
“What’s neat is, we’ve got the FFA students who got to some here when they were in fourth grade,” Mauler said.
Children from previous generations usually had grandparents or some other relative who lived on a farm, but not every child gets that experience today, Mauler noted. “Even here in Barton County, we’re raised in a rural community, but still don’t know exactly what goes on in the field.”
Fourth-grade students are studying a unit on Kansas and agriculture at school. The purpose of Ag Day is to give them a first-hand look at modern agriculture, LeRoy said. “We also want to show them people in agriculture care about producing good, healthy food and treating animals properly. We want them to know that.”
There were demonstrations by beekeepers and cowboys, an ag trivia booth and a hayride. For the program on soil conservation, the Natural Resource Conservation District brought something new – a Soil Tunnel Trailer that allowed kids to see what goes on beneath the surface of the land.