Students enjoy Farm Bureau Rural Education Days

By Janet Schmidt

Osceola County Farm Bureau

Students across the county enjoyed Project RED (Rural Education Days), which took place on May 20 and 21.

The sun was shining, but the temperatures were on the chilly side as fourth graders from Reed City, Marion, Evart, Pine River and Trinity Lutheran School spent their day split between Gingrich Farms and Rose Lake Park.

“This is the 23rd year for the event,” said Jake Stieg, Osceola County 4-H Coordinator. “Project Red is coordinated through the collaborate efforts of MSU Extension, 4-H, Osceola County Farm Bureau and the Gingrich family.”

“So many children have no exposure to agriculture and natural resources,” said Janet Schmidt, with the Osceola County Farm Bureau. “Rural Education Days is a chance for kids to have a hands-on-experience. With Rose Lake Park across the road from Gingrich Farms, it is an ideal spot to host Project RED.”

Students learned first-hand about the local agriculture industry by visiting learning stations at Gingrich Farms. They toured the robotic milking system that has been in operation for three years and saw cows travel from the holding pen into the parlor to be milked. Amy Gingrich explained how robots milk each cow and a computer tracks and records how much milk each cow gives. Brandon Gingrich talked about the amount and types of feed fed to the dairy cows. As always, the most popular station was the baby calves. Lori Nicklas explained how the baby calves are raised. Several students got to touch a calf and let them suck their fingers.

Another learning station was hosted by Effie Jack, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed Instructor. She talked to the students about seeds bringing us life, growing plants, health and nutrition. Jerry Lindquist with MSU Extension told the students that the manure they smell is really money to farmers. The 400 cows on the Gingrich farm make about 4,800 gallons of manure daily. Farmers use the manure to fertilize their ground, saving them thousands of dollars.

At Rose Lake Park, Jim Maturen told the students how turkeys were almost extinct in the early 1900s. Turkeys are now in almost every county in Michigan thanks to first being planted in the Baldwin area and parts of Osceola County in the 1950s. Renee Sanders, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed Instructor, talked to the students about nutrition.

“Milk is a good source of calcium, protein and Vitamin D,” said Sanders.

Students also saw a demonstration how to make a fruit smoothie using a blender on a stationary bike. Mr. Coppick, a fourth grade teacher, peddled the bike and had smoothies within five minutes.

“This is place, base, learning experience for the students,” said Mr. Coppick. “I just started teaching in Reed City in December and this is my first time to attend Project RED. This is an excellent hands-on event for the students.”

Tasha Lapinski, MAEAP technician, did a presentation on Fun with Bees. Students got to see her bee hive and she demonstrated how to extract honey from the hive. Last year about 40 percent of the bee population died. Diseases are causing us to lose many of our honey bees and this is a real problem for agriculture she said.

A popular station was the Dog Gone Labs with Mark Romanack and his family. Students were able to interact with his dog Mason and learned tips on how to train a dog. Osceola County Sheriff's Deputy Andy Salinas talked to the students about recreational safety and the importance of wearing a helmet and goggles when riding ORV’s. Life jackets are a must when riding in a boat.

The Osceola County Farm Bureau appreciates the many hardworking volunteers and the behind-the-scenes helpers and the generous sponsoring businesses that helped make the annual event possible.