Recently, I traveled into the ‘burbs and spent a day with Miss Henry’s 7th grade science classes. Miss Henry started her school year with experiments using popcorn. Her students were tracking growth, soil type, water and light. Now, they needed to talk to a “real” farmer and reached out through the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.
I got the email and being that we are ‘that’ close to this particular ‘burb, I volunteered to drive in and spend the day. Miss Henry warned me that when she introduced the popcorn lessons, one student asked if corn was grown in Illinois. So . . . I was prepared.
I’ve written before about the challenges of being an ag literacy coordinator. I might enter a classroom prepared to talk about the basics of cheese, but end up fielding questions about world hunger, farm policy and the like. These 7th grade suburbanites did not disappoint. They were genuinely curious about farm life and being that my family raises corn; we spent a bit talking about that.
Of course, the usual questions were asked. “Do you have a TV?” “Do you wear a straw hat?” But I was left speechless when quizzed about crop insurance.
The students’ thank you notes just arrived printed neatly on squares of colored paper. Here are a few quotes from my favorites. If you ever needed encouragement to join the conversation and wonder if it’s worth the effort, take a look. This is what makes me come back for more.
“I find it very cool that you basically own hundreds of football fields.”
“I learned that there are many different types of corn for many different types of uses.”
“I didn’t know that so many everyday products are made with some form of corn. I also didn’t know that there are so many different kinds of corn.”
“It was fun to listen to how the jeans of corn can change to make pink popcorn kernels.”
“I never knew corn could be so interesting.”
“Before you came, I never really knew where popcorn came from.”
“I didn’t know living on a farm was so cool.”
“I thought it was so cool how much corn could fit in the containment unit.” (i.e. grain bin)
“I learned some pretty neat stuff and it was way more interesting than I thought it would be. I’ve always wondered about farms.”
“I learned that corn is used for everything and what the silver cylinders are.” (i.e. grain bin; hmmm. . . I’m pretty sure I said “grain bin”.)
“You can never learn as much from books as you can when you actually talk to someone.” (my favorite!)
“I honestly didn’t know that there is only one ear of corn on each stalk. I always thought there were like five on each.”
“I thought farmers didn’t work in the winter, but now I know they do.”
“My grandpa used to be a farmer and I always thought he just threw seeds in the ground and boom!”
“You have a hard job and everyone needs you and your family.” (my other favorite)