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In its 32nd year, Kane County’s Ag Days is still going strong, and so is its partnership with Mooseheart, host of the two-day educational exposition for most of that time.
Sponsored by the Kane County Farm Bureau, this year’s Ag Days took place at Mooseheart March 15-16, and 1,000 elementary-aged schoolchildren participated, an increase of 400 from last year, said Suzi Myers, the Farm Bureau’s Literacy Coordinator.
“I’d like to get back to when we had 2,000 students,” Myers said. “But it’s hard with limited funds for some schools for field trips. But there is still interest.”
Myers said the partnership between the Farm Bureau and Mooseheart as Ag Days’ host remains solid.
“We couldn’t do this without Mooseheart,” Myers said. “The staff is so helpful to us. We appreciate the facility and the people and the animals they provide. It’s a great partnership.”
During Ag Days, students moved from one station to another in the fieldhouse and learned about different aspects of agriculture. In one area, they learned about corn. In another, beekeeping, and in another area, there was a presentation on pork production.
“It’s a wonderful way to introduce children to agriculture,” Myers said. “A lot of children now are at least two generations away from the farm, and have no idea what the machinery is or how agriculture impacts their lives.”
In one corner of the fieldhouse, Cheryl Hackbarth from Sugar Grove-based Kuipers Family Farm explained the importance of apples in children’s lives. As part of Kuipers’ demonstration, students competed to see who could pluck plastic apples from wooden trees and place them into bushel baskets, and then raced to put those apples back on the wooden trees again.
“We try to make it interactive,” Hackbarth said. “They get to ‘pick’ apples here too, and then they get to ‘grow’ them back onto the tree, which isn’t as much fun. But it’s a way of showing them that while it’s fun to have the harvest, it takes work to get there.”
Mooseheart’s fourth-grade students participated in Ag Days under supervision of reading specialist Natalie Hoskins.
“I explained to them that we were headed to Ag Days and that it stands for agriculture, and that this would be our classroom for the day,” Hoskins said. “I told them this is a place to learn. I’ve seen that our children have been happy to tell the people here about Mooseheart.”
Most Mooseheart students come from non-agricultural backgrounds, but the campus hosts a petting farm, sponsors a 4-H program and for the second consecutive summer, will this year grow vegetables in a community garden.
“It’s nice that they have some background knowledge already in having been exposed to some agriculture, but they’re learning so much more here,” Hoskins said.