Farming goes into schools for ag week

Speakers inform pupils who may know little of rural life

March 23, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

Mike Pons, business manager of Country Life Farms in Bel Air, made farming come to life for third-graders at Emmorton Elementary School.

"Half of the children don't know where their milk comes from," said Pons, 46.

For the past five years during National Agriculture Week, farmers have visited elementary schools throughout the county to discuss farm operations and the significance of agriculture in the area.

"The response has doubled from 12 farmers visiting 13 schools last year to 18 farmers visiting 23 schools this year," said John Sullivan, agriculture coordinator for Harford County.

Teachers and students have had good experiences with farmers who spoke at the schools, and that is the reason for the success of the program, Sullivan said.

"When you go to a class of 25, plus or minus, students, the intention is for students to go home and talk to their parents," he said. "It immediately affects 25 families and it is the easiest and cheapest way to reach the younger generations.

"The average citizen has become further removed from the land, and our generation can't remember going to visit a family member at a farm," Sullivan said.

Interlinked

Pons spoke to third-graders last week about the importance of horse farms and how they are related to other parts of the economy.

"A lot of people don't consider horses agriculture," Pons said. However, some of the best hay in the country comes from farmers in the county, he said. And the manure from the horses is used for mushroom farms in Pennsylvania, he said.

"We are every bit of agriculture -- we just don't eat the horses," he said. Instead, the farm's horses provide stock for pleasure riding, equestrian events and racehorse breeding.

"I was amazed how the students listened, and light bulbs went off above their heads even though it was not interactive," Pons said.

"I want them to feel the enthusiasm, to have a charge," he said. "I want them to go home thinking horses are pretty cool."

`It's contagious'

Christine Moser, a third-grade teacher at Emmorton Elementary, said that Pons' passion for horses could be felt through his speech.

"I think the big thing I will take from the speech is the enthusiasm and the love of what he does," Moser said. "If you truly love what you do, it's contagious."

Afterward, the children were excited and eager to read, she said. Pons' speech gave the children background knowledge for the book Leah's Pony by Elizabeth Fredrich, which they are reading.

"The speech is a motivator to pique student interest and build background knowledge. It only enhances comprehension," Moser said.

Pons said this one of his most enjoyable events of the year.

"I learned as the kids do on a day like today," he said.

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