Union County students get hands-on intro to agriculture


Photos by Angela Gorham/Agriculture science majors from left, Cassidy Corrigan, Emery Gentry and Gabe White explain irrigation systems to a group of fourth and fifth-grade students participating in Ag Day at EOU May 13.

Union County students get hands-on intro to agriculture

News contact: Laura Hancock | University Advancement
541-962-3585 | lhancock@eou.edu

The Cove FFA chapter brought this calf and two pigs to campus for the day.

May 31, 2013
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) - More than 300 elementary students know more about where their food comes from after participating in Ag Day, an event that brings area fourth and fifth-graders to EOU’s campus each spring.

Marveling at trick roping demonstrations and savoring some ice cream were definite high points, but Ag Day provides a much broader, contextual primer to agricultural practices.

“Our goal is to help students learn about agriculture, natural resources and most importantly, college,” said Jeff Sherman, instructor and advisor with Oregon State University’s Agriculture Sciences program at EOU. “We want then to understand where their food comes from and also be comfortable on ‘their’ campus.”

Classes from La Grande, Imbler, Elgin and Union elementary schools were involved. Angela Gorham, administrative program assistant with OSU, has children who participated.

“Students see how agriculture impacts their everyday lives,” Gorham said. “The kids were really engaged, understood the concepts and they all cheered at the chance to try roping.”

A calf, two pigs and a dog, named Bruce, welcomed children’s attention at a petting zoo in the quad. Troughs of water and tubes simulated a flood irrigation system. The U.S. Forest Service provided a close-up look at one of their wildland firefighting vehicles. Students even made “living seed” necklaces and chia pets to take home and watch grow.

EOU and OSU students took the lead on the activities. Many are members of the Collegiate FFA and Ag and Young Cattlemen’s Association. La Grande and Cove high school FFA groups also pitched in.

“Ag Day was a lot of fun,” said Hannah Mears, a first-year student majoring in biochemistry at EOU. “It’s a good way to introduce how important agriculture is to these young kids. They may not have grown up in a situation where they know how we get the majority of our food.”

EOU student Hannah Mears shares trivia about the dairy industry.

Mears shared her knowledge of dairy science with participants, including the most popular dairy cow breeds and what they produce – like ice cream – which, to the students’ delight, was part of her presentation.

Elizabeth Ferge, Collegiate FFA president, said Ag Day plays a large part in the club’s mission.

“Bringing in fourth and fifth-grade students from different Union County schools is part of our outreach,” Ferge said. “It was a huge success and the club is very excited for next year and working on making it bigger and better.”

Collegiate FFA is not exclusive to agriculture science majors and there is diversity of interests among the 20 or so students involved this year. Ferge, a junior in the elementary education program at EOU, is an example.

The Ag and Young Cattlemen’s Association numbers are around 25 and there is some overlap in membership between the two groups.

“We work very closely with the other agricultural clubs and a lot of the things we do wouldn’t be possible without that relationship,” Ferge continued.

Sherman and Gorham agree that Ag Day is advantageous to college and elementary level students alike.

“The benefit for EOU and OSU students is the experience of educating another generation on their way of life and the passion they have for agriculture and natural resources,” Sherman said.

“Many of our Collegiate FFA members plan to teach high school agriculture, where learning is experiential and hands-on in nature. For some, this may be their first teaching experience and we hope they stick with it.” 

> View more photos from Ag Day!

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