Somehow University of Idaho Associate Extension Professor Sarah Baker didn’t giggle when a third-grader told her the chicken legs served at lunch that day had come from a cow.
Rather, Baker smiled and suggested another guess. The next student got it right — the lunch item indeed came from a chicken.
The kids were spot on when she asked them where the mashed potatoes they also had for lunch came from — “the ground,” several said.
Baker knew her audience and interspersed bits of information about agriculture between instructions about how to create a chia potato pet. Short and sweet seemed to stick in their minds. They chatted about where the food that their parents buy at a grocery store comes from — how farmers grow crops for food and ranchers raise animals for meat. Eventually those things end up in stores for people to buy, Baker said.
The third-graders were happy to share what they’d learned earlier in the day that had been filled with presentations about agriculture. It was part of the National Agriculture Week celebration spearheaded by Baker and Custer Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Karma Bragg. The two women take ag into the classrooms, take kids on ranch tours and hand out free breakfast bags in a pop-up drive-thru restaurant on Main street throughout the week.
Ag runs deep in the organizers’ veins, as well as in those of their helpers: Baker’s sister and mom Stacy Parent and Cheryl Baker; potato farmer and school board member Janiel Parkinson; Rosana Rieth from the Natural Resource Conservation Service; and rancher and businesswoman Dede Smith; along with Challis FFA members.
Potatoes were a big hit this year with kids creating chia pets from potatoes. Cut the top and bottom off a tuber, dig a dip in one end, poke in a cotton ball, add some grass seed, press it in, cover it with a piece of pantyhose and decorate it with eyes, mouths, noses and bowties. The finished taters were placed in plastic cups labeled with the creator’s name. The kids were told to take them home, sit them in a sunny spot, water them and wait a couple of weeks to see grass growing from the heads.
“You’ll have to give them haircuts, their hair will grow so long,” Baker said.
While one group of third-graders made the chia taters, classmates painted potatoes and a third group ate snacks made from potatoes and learned about growing and harvesting potatoes.
In other classrooms students played beef bingo to learn about beef products and byproducts; made farm charms that highlight components of agriculture; and made pancakes and butter. Fourth-graders toured a ranch where they saw cattle, sheep, horses and farm equipment.
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