May 16, 2022 at 6:17 p.m.
Sheboygan County Farm Bureau hosted Classroom on the Farm May 5-6 at Majestic Crossing Dairy near Sheboygan Falls. Nearly 1,000 third and fourth grade students from Sheboygan County schools attended the event. Two groups of students traveled to the farm each day from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. This is the second year that Majestic Crossing Dairy has hosted Classroom on the Farm.
“We have to tell our story,” said Darin Strauss, one of the farm’s owners. “If you don’t do it, someone else does. You have to start someplace, and this event provides an opportunity to educate both kids and adults.”
The partners at Majestic Crossing Dairy milk 2,000 cows between two sites and farm 3,600 acres. At the site where Classroom on the Farm was held, 780 cows are milked by 13 Lely robots installed in 2017. At the second site, cows are milked in a parlor.
“More people are farther removed from farming and dairying in general and as a result do not know where their food comes from,” Strauss said. “We’re losing that connection. Yet, people are becoming more intimate with their food and very passionate about what they eat but are still naive on how it’s produced. We’d like to bridge that gap.”
Students rotated through nine stations: Let’s Milk a Cow, Wisconsin Agricultural Diversity, Robotic Milking Demonstration, Beef, The Cow Doctor, A Day in the Life of a Cow, Farm Machinery, A Cow Needs to Eat and Baby Calves.
Presenters included local dairy farmers, college students and area professionals from Nutrition Professionals, Riesterer and Schnell, CP Feeds, Sheboygan County Dairy Promotion Committee, Dairy Doctors, the Dairy Business Association as well as Alice in Dairyland and Julia Nunes.
Held the first Thursday and Friday of every May for the past 15 years, the two-day event replaces Ag in the Classroom in Sheboygan County.
Kathy Salm is the Sheboygan County Farm Bureau promotion and education chair.
“It was so hard to fit Ag in the Classroom into the schedules of all the schools and farmer volunteers,”she said. “This way, we can reach all the kids at once. Many of the parents and teachers who come to Classroom on the Farm have never been on a farm either, so we can even help educate adults during this event.”
Students had the opportunity to milk Addie, a life-size fiberglass cow, pet newborn calves and learn how they are cared for, see the farm’s crossbreed cows and learn what their day is like, watch a cow being milked by a robot, and view some of the farm’s large tractors. They also learned about the nutrients in milk and beef, what cows eat, the different agricultural products Wisconsin produces, some of the cheeses Wisconsin is famous for and other details.
Strauss said the biggest thing he wants kids to take away from the event is knowing how much people in animal production care about their animals.
“We take good care of our cattle, and more than anything, we want people to understand the type of relationships we have with our livestock,” Strauss said. “We want consumers to know that the milk and meat they buy are coming from well-managed facilities.”
Zaria, a student from Jefferson Elementary, said her favorite thing about Classroom on the Farm was seeing how big the cows are.
“I didn’t think they were that big,” she said. “And the calves are really cute.”
For a boy named Devin, seeing and petting the calves was his favorite part of the day. He also enjoyed learning how much calves eat. His classmate Jerry loved seeing the big tractor that was on display and learning how cows are milked.
Valerie Kaiser is a third-grade teacher.
“I think it’s really important for kids from the city to see a working farm in action,” she said.
Each student was sent home with a reusable drawstring bag packed with information highlighting Wisconsin agriculture and careers. The students also received cow erasers and pencils along with Baker string cheese and dried cranberries courtesy of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers. Teachers received informational packets and a block of artisan cheese courtesy of Sartori.
Salm said the event is a continual way to get kids on the farm and interested in the agriculture industry.
“We need a future for ag,” Salm said. “My neighbor who milks 1,500 cows said, ‘What if our kids don’t want to take over?’ They need another option, and getting today’s youth excited about agriculture might be that option. Not all kids go to college. Sometimes you have to work with your hands, and agriculture is working with your hands. We want kids to think about all their possibilities.”
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