Celebrating National Ag Day

Grand Island, Nebraska is right in the middle of one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.  But that doesn’t mean that all the young people in the area are familiar with agriculture.

The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee created “Ag Day” in 1999 to help educate Grand Island area’s Fourth Graders about agriculture.  The program’s aim is to expand urban children’s’ knowledge of where their food comes from, as well as the wealth of by-products made from farm animals and the land.  In Fourth Grade, students study Nebraskan history, including the importance of agriculture on the state’s economy, by examining the varied products that farmers and ranchers produce.  Ag Day enhances what they learn in school by taking that knowledge a step further.

Gaining an Agricultural Education

Grand Island Northwest High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) students work with the Agricultural Committee to help teach younger students about farm animals and give them a first-hand opportunity to get up close.  They also help teach about the six different grains grown in the state: corn, sorghum, wheat, oats, alfalfa and soybeans.  The FFA students explain water consumption requirements for individual crops and how a farmer can incorporate new technologies to the operations, such as GPS tracking, in order to maximize crop yields.

Additionally, a horse trainer demonstrates proper animal handling and care techniques, while a farrier shows how he trims and shoes horses’ hooves.  A sheep shearer demonstrates how to remove the woolen fleece from a sheep with shears.  The students also hear from many representatives from organizations that promote various commodities produced in the state, including the Nebraska Cattle Women, Nebraska Corn Growers, Nebraska Pork Producers, 4-H/UNL Extension Hall County, Central Platte Natural Resource District and Midwest Dairy Association.

Prairie Fibers Guild demonstrates how wool is processed, all the way from cleaning and dying, to spinning yarn for fabrics.  In addition, UNL Department of Entomology explains why honeybees are valued pollinators for agricultural crops, as well as for the proliferation of flowers and trees in the state.

Promoting Sustainable Communities

As a producer and farmer, AmurEF’s Annette Schimmer, who chairs the event, feels it is vital to teach young children the importance that farming and ranching operations have on local and national communities.  “There are so many kids leaving the farm and ranch and not coming back. One of the lessons we want to teach the students is there are numerous career opportunities involving agriculture.”

“Most of these kids have never experienced any kind of farm life,” she said.  “What they see is on television or in the movies and often those are not accurate representations of farm and ranch life.  At Ag Day, they get to see firsthand some of these animals and get to touch and feel them.  In addition to learning about where their food comes from, the students learn how animal by-products are essential components of everyday consumer items such as shampoo, fabric softener and pet food.”

This year, Ag Day celebrates its 20th year.  From its conception, the event has grown from 300 to 900 students and is considered an important teaching opportunity for Grand Island area teachers and principals.  And its success demonstrates that it is also an exceptional learning opportunity for the students.

To learn more about the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee and the other events they host, visit www.gichamber.com/ag-day