Third-graders get feel for farm life

Published 9:57 am Monday, September 27, 2010

Gary Braaten gave Halverson Elementary School third graders a tour of his hog finishing facility on Wednesday. -- Michelle Haacke/Albert Lea Tribune

Local third-grade students enjoyed a lesson outside the classroom and a breath of fresh country air Wednesday during the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee’s annual farm tours.

“Our goal is to bring knowledge to kids and their parents,” said committee member Deb Steinfeld.

Students visited three different area farms, learning about hogs from Gary Braaten and Brent Young of rural Austin, dairy cattle at Miller Farms in rural Oakland and potatoes from Larry Reynen of Maple Island.

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Braaten, who operates a 4,000-head hog finishing operation with Brent Young, has allowed students to tour the farm for the past 11 years. They guided the students through their operations, doling out fun facts about the pigs and the facilities and answering questions along the way.

“I like to show them about all of the changes that have been made over the years,” Braaten said. “Very few kids are tied to agriculture nowadays, so we try to give them a little understanding.”

This was the first time that Halverson third-graders Alecia Warren and Lily Vinge had visited a hog farm. They couldn’t hide their delight, even through pinched noses, at seeing the pigs up close. “I think it’s nice here,” said Vinge.

“They’re stinky but cute,” said Warren as she giggled, adding that she likes sausage and bacon.

One lesson that their teacher, Rhonda Schmidt, was pleased to see is that the students were making the connection, that food doesn’t just come from a box.

“To be learning where their food comes from, seeing where milk, cheese, potatoes and bacon comes from is important,” she said. “And how it gets from the farm to the grocery store.”

She said the tour ties in with their social studies curriculum unit on farming.

Over 325 third-grade students from Hawthorne, Halverson, Lakeview, Sibley and St. Theodore elementaries in Albert Lea and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, United South Central, Glenville and Alden-Conger elementaries took the tours.