Farmers teach fourth-graders about agriculture
By TIM HEARDEN
ANDERSON, Calif. -- After rancher and dog breeder Merle Newton gave his presentation to schoolchildren during an education day here, it didn't take long for the kids to rush forward.
They were invited to reach through the fence and pet the dogs he just used to move sheep around an arena.
"I thought it was really cool," said Jordan Constantino, a fourth-grader at Junction Elementary School in Palo Cedro, Calif. "I like to learn about what kind of dogs do it (work on ranches)."
Newton's talk was included among more than a half-dozen stations that area fourth-graders rotated through during the Shasta County Farm Bureau's 12th Farm-City Day Sept. 26 at the Shasta District Fair grounds here.
Several hundred youngsters were given lessons on the beef industry, area wildlife, rangelands, bees, forestry and bugs and watched 4-H members feed a calf with a bottle.
The stock dog demonstration is one of the most popular at the annual field day. Last year the kids voted it as their favorite. Students are riveted as Newton and his wife, Sandi, show how the dogs learn to start, stop and circle a herd to move it along.
"I think this is great," said Meredith Feamster, whose daughter, Raelynn, was attending the field trip. "It's good for the kids. It gives them an appreciation for all of the ag that's around us. They see all the fields and the cows that are all around us. It gives the kids an appreciation for what's real."
During their talk, the Newtons ask the children if they had a glass of milk that morning, then tell them a stock dog was responsible in an indirect way.
"We show them how they're helpful for ranchers and that a border collie, in a roundabout way, is responsible for the food on their table," Merle Newton said.
The annual field day is among numerous such events held around the country to introduce urban schoolchildren to agriculture. As a kickoff for the Tehama District Fair on Sept. 27, some 900 schoolchildren received lessons centered around what they see and do at the Red Bluff, Calif., fair.
In an event co-sponsored by the local office of education, the students learned what it's like to take a pig to market, learned about forestry and checked out plants and fish in one of the exhibit halls.
Newton, who raises dogs and livestock in Red Bluff, said the education days make children better informed about agriculture.
"For some children, it's the only experience they have with it and the only chance they'll get to learn about ranching," he said.
Shasta County Farm Bureau: http://shasta.cfbf.com/
Tehama District Fair: http://tehamadistrictfair.com/fair.htm