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Connecting kids to crops

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Gary Keesling, right, shows students a bee hive and explains how beekeepers like him take care of the insects and collect honey from them. The honey station was new to this year’s Ag Day and it was a big hit with students.
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Knightstown High School agriculture teacher Bridgette Wanhainen shows Shenandoah Elementary School students what soybeans and field corn actually look like. Many of the students seemed surprised to find out soybeans and other Indiana grains were in so many of the foods they eat every day.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Jim Wenning’s farm on Wilbur Wright Road is usually a busy place. 

This was even more true Friday when first graders from all over the county came out to learn how farms feed and clothe people every day.

The Wennings have hosted Henry County Farm Bureau’s Ag Day for the past three years.

Henry County Ag Day has been a local annual tradition for more than two decades. Trennepohl Farms in Middletown hosted it for many years in the past. There also was a year when it was held in the W.G. Smith Building at Memorial Park.

Every school in Henry County took part in Ag Day. About 550 first-graders visited the farm throughout the day.

The weather was a bit windy Friday, but the sun was shining and the kids were having a good time.

Jim Wenning, sporting a red Farm Bureau shirt, seemed pretty happy with the turnout.

“It teaches kids how much they participate with agriculture on a daily basis without knowing it,” Wenning said.

There were nine stations set up in and around the Wennings’ barns.

Rachel White introduced 7 year olds to a newborn calf from the Milco Dairy. Jessica Wenning and Dylan Yanos walked students around the inside of an empty grain bin.

At the pig station, students got to see a gilt and a barrow that Tom Mensch had brought in.

“They give you bacon!” one student hollered out excitedly.

Conservations officers from the Department of Natural Resources let the 7 year olds see and feel animal pelts.

The fruit and veggie station showed students that the flowers on some plants can turn into food.

Henry County Purdue Extension Director Justin Curley helped teach kids how they couldn’t even have pizza if it wasn’t for farmers.

Dominick Carter, a Shenandoah first grader, said his favorite part was getting to climb into the tractors that the Wenning and Yanos farms had parked between the barns.

“It’s pretty cool so far,” said Dominick’s mom, Kristi Kilgore. “You learn a lot.”

Knightstown FFA members Aiden Orcutt and Matthew Bowling worked the “Henry the Puppet” station. At this station, kids got to learn how their clothes start off as grain and fiber grown in a field.

FFA chapters from across the county came out in force Friday to help make Ag Day a success.

“They are a very critical part of being able to put this on,” Jim Wenning said.

Farm Bureau board members and other volunteers helped guarantee that the day ran smoothly and the kids got a fun educational experience.

The elementary students also got to meet 2017 Henry County 4-H Queen Cora Russell, complete with tiara and sash.

Henry County Farm Bureau President Lis McDonnell said that even though this is a rural county, it is still important for children to visit a working farm and really understand what it takes to make their everyday life possible.

“Young children especially don’t always make the connection between the crops in the field they see while riding in their car to the food they eat. Our goal is to help them make that connection,” McDonnell said.

Ag Day is sponsored by Henry County Farm Bureau, the Henry County Extension Office and the Knightstown, Shenandoah, Tri and Blue River FFA chapters.