When the 31st annual Oregon Ag Fest opens Saturday, April 27, a new group of student volunteers will be holding court in the Oregon Sheep Growers booth.
Ag students from Lost River Junior/Senior High School in Merrill, Ore., will make the four-hour drive to share everything they know about sheep. Merrill is in southern Oregon just north of the California border.
Ag teacher Meghan Miller is excited about the opportunity Ag Fest participation presents.
“This is their first time at Ag Fest and if it is a good fit for them I’m sure it won’t be their last,” Miller said. “I’ve explained that Ag Fest is going to be like the Farm Expo they help run here every year, except it will be like a Farm Expo on steroids. They are excited and I know they will to do a great job.”
Miller, who holds a general ag and animal science degree from Oregon State University, was born and raised on a sheep farm near the school.
“I grew up in a sheep grower community and have even moved back to the farm to help my dad raise sheep,” Miller said. “We keep a flock of a dozen ewes at the school for the kids to have hands-on sheep-based learning experiences, which includes watching them lamb.
“Between that and my own sheep involvement, these kids know a lot about sheep. They plan on bringing an education component to the booth and helping kids make scented lotion out of lanolin,” she said.
In addition to their work with sheep, Lost River ag students partner with several elementary schools in the district that want to raise chickens in their classrooms. After the chickens hatch, they are returned to the school’s flock.
The eggs from the chickens are either sold or used in the cafeteria, as is the USDA-inspected meat from donated steers that the students feed out.
“Expenses for the three-day trip to Ag Fest are financed in part by the quarterly Drive-Thru-Dinner fundraisers the kids work on, the Oregon Sheep Growers are providing the lodging and the Klamath County School District is helping out with transportation,” Miller said. “We hope to have enough kids to be able to work in shifts so they are freed up to see what else is there.”
On Saturday, after working at Ag Fest, they will also take some ag-related tours around the Willamette Valley.
“After working the booth on Sunday, the students will attend the Ag Fest Education Award Ceremony to receive their second-place Ag Fest Education Award for the job they’ve done educating the public about agriculture,” she said.
Once that’s over, they will pack up and return to Merrill.
“I have a passion for teaching service leadership to these kids,” Miller said. “They have had lots of experience doing a lot of things and now they are excited about how they can help and what they can learn at Ag Fest.”