Brenneman: Bridging the ag gap begins with students

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click image to zoomErin BrennemanCopyright Erin Brenneman Erin Brenneman You can feel the buzz in the air once that big yellow school bus pulls into the driveway off of the gravel road.

It is full of anxious little minds ready to see a life that most of them have never been exposed to before.

That's right, it's the time of year for elementary school visits to the farm!

click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman Brenneman Pork has been incredibly fortunate to host an elementary school class for a day for the past three years.

Every year it amazes me when I ask for a show of hands to find out which of the children have actually been to a farm. Even living in rural southeast Iowa in a small town of 2,000 people the majority of young children have never been on or experienced a working farm. 

Each year, we show the kids a short slideshow of what a day is like on our farm and all of the parts that have to come together to make it work.

click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman
click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman

We explain the "farm cycle" of growing the crops, harvesting them, milling them into feed for the pigs, and how the manure from the pigs is used as fertilizer on the crops.  Of course with the younger groups you get some sour faces at the word "manure," but the important part is that they are seeing the reality of what we do and how we take special care in every part of the farm to make sure nothing is going to waste.

We show them how we use GPS technology in our tractors and how the tractors can "drive by themselves" when we are in them so that we make the best and most efficient use of them and never need to go over the same spot twice! 

All of the big green tractors and equipment are set out on display in our own mini Farm Progress Show. The wings on the cultivator are unfolded and the booms of the sprayer are spread out and we watch as they marvel at the vast size of the equipment. Their faces light up when we let them form lines in front of their favorite one and let them sit in it and pretend they are driving, just like the farmers do.

Once someone finds the horn to the tractor, the viewing event turns into a concert of tractor calling sprayer calling combine in horn “Morse code.”

click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman This year, the kids were able to go up to our observation area in the feed mill and help my husband's Uncle Lynn load a feed truck full of feed and send it off to its next pig building destination.

It was important for them to see that we are a large farm with many different areas in which we work.  But even within all of these departments, family members are dotted about the farm, each with his or her area of expertise and knowledge to bring to the table. This is what makes us successful and helps us grow.

We all live and breathe farming.  It is our life and we are dedicated to it.

click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman Then of course, we reach the highlight of the day.  Each morning of the school visit we hold back a select few perfect kid-size weaned pigs from that day’s weaning and bring them up for the kids to pet and touch.

The kids love feeling the pigs’ soft wet noses and petting their hair.

They investigate their floppy ears and listen to their little piglet grunts. Each pig gets a clever nickname.

click image to zoomErin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman This year's best name was "Pattern" referring to the neat stripes he had on his back.

It quickly becomes a humbling experience for me – it brings my job and purpose on this farm full circle. I go out to the buildings to help raise and care for these animals every day. It is my responsibility and obligation to them. Being able to share the healthy little pigs that I helped bring into this world with kids learning about the cycle of life is one of the neatest things. It is almost an indescribable feeling. Great purpose and satisfaction are the only words that come to mind.

Every time it is a thrill to know that you are bringing a glimpse of the farm into these kids’ lives.

They start to make connections between the farmers that they see plowing the field when they drive by during the day, to the food that is put on their tables at night. They see that some farming might look a little different than long ago and how we have chosen to use more technology to help us be more efficient and to help feed the world! The children are able to put a face with the word “farmer.”

It is safe to say that spring time farm units in schools are by far some of my favorite farm tours to do, because we get the opportunity to teach the world about agriculture, one bright young mind at a time!

Erin Brenneman Copyright Erin Brenneman


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