Photos by Rachel LaFranchi and Steven Knudsen
At the Gold Ridge RCD’s Ag Days booth, staff member Adriana Stagnaro had a display of fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans. As students approached the table, she asked “Do you know what all these foods have in common? Bees!” She followed this up by describing how “before these foods were foods, they were flowers first that needed to be pollinated.”
Stagnaro said at the Gold Ridge RCD booth, “students experienced being a bee by having their hands covered in pollen (baking flour) while reaching in a flower for sweet nectar (pieces of candy). They also learned that for as many different foods created by pollination there are also just as many different busy bees. Native bees and honey bees both need our support to do the work of pollination on our farms.”
A few booths down from the Gold Ridge RCD was Clover Sonoma where kids learned about dairy products and making butter. In the same area, kids could visit the Sonoma County Water Agency, PG&E, the Sonoma-Marin Cattlewomen and many others.
In subsequent buildings, children learned more about bees as they ate honeysticks and learned about milk from dairy princess Adrianna Begley as they drank a glass. They sampled kefir and ate fresh apples and oranges. Pegi Ball, Market Manager for the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, helped students plant seeds from farmer’s market vendors. Students sprayed water on the seeds they put in a plastic bag and could take them home to grow their own food.
Children also interacted with students from Petaluma FFA where they took photos in large wooden frames as they tried on blue FFA jackets and other FFA members helped children learn how to use a drill and safety equipment.
In Finley Hall, Jan Loewen, a member of Farm Bureau’s Ag Education Committee, had four large wooden cut-outs (pig, chicken, cow and lamb) and a handful of by-products ranging from easy to more difficult. She asked children if they knew where the products came from, placing them on the wooden animals as students got them correct.
“This was my fourth year working as a volunteer at Ag Days,” said Loewen, “I get so excited to see the kids arriving – many of them ready to learn and experience new things. This year I was able to teach kids where hamburger comes from (many of them didn’t know) and teach them some of the other helpful byproducts we derive from animals. One young lady said she was sure eggs came from bunnies. I helped her learn where eggs came from and even more. It is always a real treat to be involved with Ag Days.”
Students could be found engaged in all forms of agriculture all over the fairgrounds with 73 exhibitors and more than 200 volunteers working hard to educate students where their food comes from.
And while the children were engaged in learning about soil, fruits, vegetables, tractors and more, their faces really lit up when many had their first up close and personal experience with livestock. As children climbed on the fence to reach up and pet a large draft horse for the first time, many looked over to their friends with excitement and exclaimed that they’d never pet a horse before.
Children pet Holstein and Jersey calves, month old piglets, Nigerian Dwarf Goats, chickens and baby chicks, working dogs and more. One exhibitor brought Angora goat kids and Angora rabbits – both animals are known for their soft fur and students were able to contrast both types of fluffy animals as they pet them and were educated about the differences between the rabbits and goats.
Four thousand students learned about agriculture at SCFB’s Ag Days this year, and SCFB hopes that many students will take that knowledge home and share it with family and friends.
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