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All things agriculture: Kids get a look into farm life at Ag-In-The-Classroom

Detroit Lakes FFA students bring animals from their farms to M-State every year for the annual Ag-In-The-Classroom program, a two-day program that aims to teach kids about agricultural practices and where their food comes from. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)1 / 4
(Click to see whole picture.) Students from Briana Bahr’s fourth grade class at Rossman Elementary School take turns trying to remove a board from a barrel of grain as part of an exercise on grain bin entrapment and farm safety at Ag-In-The-Classroom on March 11. Even though the board is only about halfway down the barrel, pressure makes it impossible for the kids to lift up, no matter how hard they try to pull. (Marie Johnson / Tribune) 2 / 4
Nancy Matter, a volunteer leader of the informational sessions on safety and miniature machinery, asked students to raise their hands if they lived on a farm or knew someone who did. Most of the class (Briana Bahr’s fourth grade class at Rossman) raised their hands. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)3 / 4
M-State hosts Ag-In-The-Classroom in Detroit Lakes every year. This year's program was held March 11 and 12, and focused on agricultural topics like sugar beets, grains, beef, machinery and more. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)4 / 4

How many kids know the difference between a heifer and a cow?

That might be an easy one for kids raised on a farm, but for everybody else, it's not such common knowledge. Thanks to Ag-In-The-Classroom, though, hundreds of kids from the Detroit Lakes area can now explain that difference, plus lots of other farm-related concepts, facts and safety tips.

Held at M-State earlier this week, March 11-12, Ag-In-The-Classroom gave local elementary school students the chance to learn about agricultural practices first-hand from local farmers, and to interact with some live farm animals.

"We definitely get a lot of unique questions and comments on the animals," said Alyssa Mitchell, of the Detroit Lakes FFA, which provides the animals for Ag-In-The-Classroom every year. "Like, one of the kids today thought my heifer was a horse. And they learned that the heifer is not a cow, because she has not had a calf yet."

So that's the difference between a heifer and a cow — a heifer is a female that has not yet had a calf; she becomes a cow after her first calf is born. The kids also learned about goats, sheep, chickens and other animals commonly found around the farm.

While that was going on outside, inside, students were learning about beef and dairy farming practices, grains and sugar beets, soils, turkeys, pigs, machinery and farm safety. The informational sessions lasted about 20 minutes each and were led by more than 20 local volunteers from area farms and agricultural agencies.

Students from Roosevelt, Rossman, Holy Rosary and Lake Park-Audubon elementary schools all took part.

"It's phenomenal," said Shelly Gilson, a fourth grade teacher at Rossman, of Ag-In-The-Classroom. "The kids always learn something new — I always learn something new!"

Over the years, Ag-In-The-Classroom has connected thousands of area students to their agricultural roots. The program aims to improve agricultural literacy — awareness, knowledge and appreciation — among teachers and students. Organizers say the goal is to paint a complete picture of farming for the kids, so they have a better understanding of where their food comes from, and what it takes to get it to their plates.

Ag-In-The-Classroom was sponsored by the Becker County Farm Bureau, Becker County Soil and Water Conservation Office, and Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce's Agri-Business Committee.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 4-year-old son and toddler daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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