By Sean Ellis
BOISE — More than 250 fifth-graders from Boise learned about farming and the natural resources needed to grow food Sept. 17 during an interactive field day held at a local farm.
The inaugural event was a unique opportunity to give urban kids a hands-on glimpse of farming and leave them with a positive impression of agriculture, said Scott Koberg, district manager of the Ada Soil and Water Conservation district, which organized the event.
“We really wanted to give kids primarily from the city … an opportunity to connect with the agriculture right here in Ada County,” he said. “If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to bring these kids out here and show them what agriculture is about, they may never find that connection to agriculture.”
The field day was held at Peaceful Belly Farm, a 60-acre organic farm just north of Boise that grows 180 different types of vegetables and flowers.
The event included six outdoor learning stations where children were taught about farming, pollinators, wildlife and habitat, and the important role soil and water plays in agriculture.
The information was given to the students in simple language.
“If we didn’t have pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of the stuff we eat,” farm owner Clay Erskine told one group of children at a station where they learned the important role bees play in agriculture.
Koberg said the event was set up to be a fun, “hands-on learning experience where they don’t really realize how much they’re learning because they’re having so much fun.”
The students were able to compete in several events at a “Farm Olympics” station, make their own cider, pick raspberries and step down into a freshly dug trench to see and evaluate the various layers within the soil profile.
They also competed in watermelon-eating contests with watermelons grown at Peaceful Belly and learned about rangeland and fire protection.
The main goal of the field day was to teach kids where their food comes from and the importance of conserving the natural resources needed to grow that food, Koberg said.
“If kids don’t understand where their food comes from and they think it comes from a supermarket, that really doesn’t connect them to the land and resources around them and allow them to understand the importance of protecting those resources,” he said.
Farm owner and event organizer Josie Erskine said the field day was set up to be a place of knowledge and learning.
“Farmers are really in touch with the science of their soil, what’s happening with their water and who their pollinators are,” she said. “We want to really show these kids that a farm is a huge place of knowledge and science.”
Josie Erskine, who is on the ASWCD board of directors, said she hopes the event is extended to include multiple field days on several farms in the area.