Classroom held in the corn Ray Hall describes the workings of an antique corn cutter to students during the recent "Field to Table" event held in his corn field. The old farm implement is much simpler than the modern combine in the background. In September of 2001, Ray Hall, a local farmer from Burbank, opened his corn and soybean fields to local schools in hopes that he could help students learn a little bit about agriculture. Well, three years later, Hall's dream is still alive and growing.
Nearly 450 third, fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers attended the event known as "Field to Table." Students attending this project came from Vermillion Public, St. Agnes, Dakota Valley, Beresford, Gayville-Volin, Irene, Wakonda, Akron-Westfield, IA, and Wausa, NE.
This unique learning activity takes kids out of the regular classroom and brings them into the field and literally into a classroom that is cut out in a corn field. The three-day program allowed students to have a first hand look at how some of our local crops, like corn and soybeans, are grown.
The students have the opportunity to move through six different stations and learn about crops (soybeans, corn, wheat and oats); machinery (combine, planter, antique corn cutter and an antique corn sheller); marketing and crop yields.
Besides promoting agriculture, students learn the situation of the producer. Students learn how the price of a product in the grocery store compares to the profit farmers receive for their crops. Students also learn how crops change and move from the field to the table.
This project has been a cooperative effort with Clay, Union, Bon Homme and Yankton County Cooperative Extension Service, First Dakota National Bank, Meckling and Vermillion Fertilizer Companies, Clay County Farm Bureau, Hy-Vee, Jones Foods, Chestermans, South Dakota Soybean Council, South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and the South Dakota Soybean Association.
Each year Hall and the educators look for new concepts and ways to teach students. This year a field check area was added where a fifth of an acre was roped off and flags were placed within the area to represent how many bushels of corn or soybeans would be harvested from that area. The students got to count the flags and calculate the potential yield in bushels per acres.
To help students understand how large an acre is, Hall built a mini football field out of a door box and painted it to include goal posts and yard lines. Then he painted a board that represented a fifth of an acre. This board could then be placed on the football field so the students could see the area that they were dealing with.
Another area added this year was a popcorn station. Using a microwave powered by a generator, students had the opportunity to watch popcorn pop right on the cob, something lots of people have never seen. At his home, Hall is growing popcorn and each student that participated in the Field to Table classroom will receive cob of popcorn and popping instructions. This is another way to touch the lives of these students and help them to learn about agriculture.
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One evening was also set aside for "Consumers Night" which was opened to the public. About 80 people attended. Hot dogs and chips were served to those who attended plus there were drawings for prizes, some of which were produced or made from locally grown agricultural products. The general public had a chance to see what the school kids were taught and were also allowed the same opportunity for an overview of agriculture and local crops.
Representative from the agriculture industry and the Extension offices were present to answer questions on topics ranging from biotechnology and genetically modified crops to food safety and general crop production.
Both programs are geared towards raising the consumer's awareness of the production of agricultural crops and agriculture in general. People don't realize all of the products that ag crops are in. Corn is found in everything from adhesives to tires to paper to gasoline. In fact, there are more than 2,500 different uses and products made from corn.
While soybeans are used in all sorts of food products they are also used in more than 140 non-food products like fuel, ink and glue.
According to Hall and his wife Mary, "The purpose for all of this is so the kids can experience a little bit of the farm and it is important for them and for us, the family farmers and how important we are to each other."