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Thank A Farmer
Barton County students learn about agriculture
new slt farm-main
Riley School kindergartners enjoy a snack of ice cream, Wednesday afternoon.

When Jerry Esfeld prepared for an agricultural program at Riley School, ice cream was part of her lesson plan.
Esfeld is the county coordinator for the Barton County Farm Bureau. On Wednesday she visited the kindergarten class of Ms. Ochs and Mrs. Karst and talked about the importance of farming and ranching, including dairy farming.
“My main message is to thank a farmer or rancher,” Esfeld said after the program. She started and ended her short program with that message.

As a former elementary school teacher, Esfeld knows how to hold her young audience’s attention. She visits any classroom in Barton County at the teachers’ request. Last year she gave 75 presentations, and the number is growing because she works with the educators so the lessons fit into their plans. For example, she tries to incorporate vocabulary words that the students will meet on the state assessment tests.

The program for kindergartners was fairly simple: “Without the farmer or the rancher, you would be hungry and naked.” That got a laugh, but the kids got the point.
All of the children said they knew that milk comes from cows before it is packaged and sold in grocery stores. Some children, especially in urban areas, are not aware of this, Esfeld said. She read a story about one such girl, who learns the truth when her grandmother takes her to visit a dairy.
A cow drinks 80 gallons of water a day, and produces 8 gallons of milk, Esfeld said, showing everyone a 1-gallon jug.

“You look like happy, eager learners,” Esfeld said. Everyone received a serving of Braum’s ice cream at the end of her lesson.
Children may know that chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows, but there’s a lot about agriculture that people don’t realize, Esfeld said. When she presents her fourth-grade lessons, the teachers as well as the students usually learn something.

Only 2 percent of the world’s population are farmers and only 1/32nd of the Earth is farmable. Because the population is growing, there are more mouths to feed and less available farm land each year.
Barton County’s Farm Bureau is frequently recognized at the state level for its work in farm education, Esfeld said. Farm Bureau has a nationally recognized teaching program.
Esfeld always includes activities in her programs. She shows first graders how to make wheat necklaces. Second graders make a “garden in a glove.” They are given clear plastic gloves and put some moist cotton and different kinds of seeds in each of the fingers and thumb. Then they watch the seeds sprout and grow.

Next week Esfeld will visit third graders at St. Joseph School in Ellinwood, where she will talk about the importance of protecting natural resources. “We will make an Earth bracelet,” she said.
FFA students help Esfeld with a lesson for second graders called “Celebrating Wheat.” They grill peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Fourth graders throughout the county also attend Kids Ag Day every September, spending a day on a real farm. That is a project of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce’s agricultural committee.