Last week, McHenry County Farm Bureau hosted 13 teachers from around the county in our annual Summer Agriculture Institute. During the four-day course, the teachers participated in farm tours and classroom activities that allowed them to expand their knowledge of the industry and discover ways to incorporate agriculture into their classrooms. The four-day course consisted of three days of touring local farms and one day in the classroom.
On Tuesday, teachers had the opportunity to tour five farms, all of which differ greatly from one another. The first stop was the Vanderstappen family dairy farm, where the teachers were able to learn about the dairy industry and the process that milk goes through before it ends up in our refrigerators at home. The next stop was Black Walnut Dairy, where we learned about dairy goats and how the process differs from that of dairy cattle. At Von Bergen Acres, the teachers were introduced to specialty crops and how the planting and irrigation process differs depending on the crop. The last stop of the day was the Richardson Family Christmas Tree Farm and Adventure Farm, where the teachers were able to learn more about agritourism.
Wednesday was packed full of a variety of agriculture lessons on topics ranging from seeds to ruminant nutrition. Stephanie from Agriculture in the Classroom shared a variety of information and resources that can assist the teachers in the process of integrating agriculture into their classrooms. She also shared fun, hands-on activities to get students excited about agriculture! Haley from the Nutrients for Life Foundation spoke about soil science and its importance to agriculture. She provided the teachers with resources and activities on various topics within soil science. MCFB’s Agriculture in the Classroom Coordinator, Katie Vanderstappen, led the teachers in a variety of other activities, such as a plant identification quiz and our popular pumpkin patch pie recipe!
Thursday, our second day on the road, started at Conserve FS, where the teachers learned about the process of treating seed and other services that FS offers to farmers. We then visited Hoffie Nursery, where we learned about the process of growing and selling perennial plants. The teachers learned about growing and selling produce at Cody’s Farm and Orchard, and even got to pick their own quart of strawberries! Soil and water are critical to agriculture, which the teachers were able to learn more about with the McHenry and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District. Our last stop of the day was McHenry County College, where the teachers were able to learn more about their new Center of Agrarian Learning, which focuses on supporting the future food economy. The teachers listened to presentations on beekeeping, greenhouses, hydroponics, and aquaponics.
On Friday, we spent the morning at McHenry County Farm Bureau Vice President Pat Fritz’s cattle feed lot, where he explained the process of feeding out cattle and the importance the diet holds at that stage. Royal Oaks Farm and Orchard was the next stop, and the teachers received an in-depth presentation on the process of growing apple trees. At DeLong Grain, the teachers were able to see first-hand what farmers do with the grain that they harvest in the field and how grain elevators operate. Rush Creek Distilling walked the teachers through the process that grain goes through to become spirit. Our second to last stop was BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center, where the teachers were introduced to therapeutic riding and the endless benefits it has for their military veteran participants. Finally, the teachers were very excited to visit Dutch Mill Alpacas, where they were able to hand feed the alpacas and learn about their journey to the United States.
Overall, the Summer Agriculture Institute allowed area teachers to receive a well-rounded understanding of the agriculture industry and the importance it holds. It is McHenry County Farm Bureau’s hope that the participants take the knowledge they gained and apply it to their classrooms this fall.
Maddie Heidtke, MCFB Summer Intern 2021
To see the complete photo album from SAI 2021, click here!