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Home-grown lesson fosters agriculture appreciation

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Do brown cows make chocolate milk? Is ketchup really made from tomatoes? Do goats have bigger babies as they get older because their stomachs are bigger?

These are a few of the questions farmers were asked at Farm Bureau’s annual Ag Expo.

Nearly 1,000 fourth-graders filled the barns at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds to learn about agriculture directly from the source — farmers.

There were more than 20 local agriculture experts clearing up misconceptions and teaching public- and private-school students the importance of farms in our community.

Darren Collins, Bartholomew County’s Farm Bureau secretary, recalled a time when he talked about hogs at the expo.

“Some of the children came up to the pen cheering, ‘Look at the cow!’” he said.

Lois Bonnell, Bartholomew County women’s leader for Farm Bureau, said fourth grade is a good time to introduce agriculture to students — it’s when students learn about Indiana history.

“People don’t realize in Bartholomew County that there’s a large farming community,” she said. “This event brings kids in that don’t see it, and might not be exposed to it at the fair.”

There were stations about Christmas trees, the 4-H Youth Development Organization, canned vegetables and flowers. Other favorites among the students were the farm animals — cows, alpacas, donkeys, sheep and goats among them.

Students gathered cautiously around the sides of Jerry Patterson’s miniature donkeys — until he assured them they can get closer.

“They think donkeys are going to kick them like a horse,” he said.

But he wouldn’t have brought the animals around his family — or the students — if that were the case. They don’t bite, either.

“Some of these kids have never been around animals except dogs and cats,” he said. “When they’re exposed here, they’re amazed.”

Brilynn Roberts, an IUPUC student who was at the expo to teach the students about goats and their reproductive systems, said it’s too bad more of the children haven’t gotten involved in 4-H before now.

As Erika Bonnett, Bartholomew County director for the Purdue Extension, explained — there’s more to 4-H than livestock. Students squealed with excitement as Bonnett described the different activities, ranging from pigs to Fashion Revue and beef cattle to photography.

“A lot of our kids in our communities just don’t get a chance,” Roberts said. “But it’s how I learned to raise an animal. It taught me responsibility and showed me how to get involved.”

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