An agricultural experience

LEROY – When Brendan Ruppert smelled a small bag of cow manure, his nose crinkled at the stench.

The fourth grader passed the bag to his classmate as they sat on a hay bail learning about manure management from MSU Extension Educator Jerry Lindquist.

“If anyone complains about that smell, tell them that’s the smell of money,” Lindquist said.

The G.T. Norman Elementary class travelled to Gingrich Meadows Wednesday along with fourth graders from Pine River for the 20th annual Rural Education Day, a day which combines local agricultural experts and students for a hands-on experience.

“(Rural Education Day) teaches kids about agriculture and natural resources in a non-traditional classroom,” said Jacob Steig, Osceola County 4-H program instructor. “They can learn hands-on about the resources we have here in Osceola County.”

Half the day was spent at Gingrich Meadows, a dairy farm near LeRoy, where students learned about milk production, dairy cows, nutrition, manure management and calf management.

Kelly Workman from Leudeman dairy farm explained to fourth-graders that similar to a student’s record in the principal’s office, a record is kept on each of the cows as well. Just like each student has a name, each cow has a number that identifies them, Workman said.

The groups also travelled across the street to Rose Lake Park where they attended sessions in electrical safety,

recreational safety, draft horses and wild turkeys.

“All the presenters did a great job explaining everything and the kids loved it,” said Jana Mulder, fourth-grade teacher at Tustin Elementary School. “With the budget and finances being tight, it’s nice to do a close, cheap field trip.”

Though around 90 percent of students who came on the trip say they don’t live on a farm, Lindquist said the agricultural knowledge benefits all students.

“It’s important for them to be informed and see where milk comes from,” Lindquist said.

Many former participants in Rural Education Day still fondly remember their experiences on the farm years later, and one family even began raising their own cows after a parent chaperone attended the field trip.

“It impacts people in ways you don’t think,” Lindquist said.

Fourth graders from Marion Schools visited the farm and park Thursday for the same experience.

Organizers said Rural Education Day will continue for years to come.