A Day On The Farm

Rather than study conservation and farming while sitting in school, the classroom on Tuesday and Wednesday was on Barry and Tammy VanOrds’ farm in Sugar Grove Township.

Sugar Grove and Russell elementary students in kindergarten through sixth grade learned about agriculture and conservation.

Tammy, who is also a first-grade teacher at Sugar Grove, said, “Our philosophy is education, so the students know where their food comes from and how important it is to take care of the earth.

“We at the VanOrd farm feel a responsibility to move sustainability forward by provide educational opportunities for children, as well as adults.”

The children rotated in classes through the dairy barn to pet calves, to a field where they planted onions, learned about soil conservation from representatives from the Warren County Conservation District, about goats from Ann and Carl Shultz and habitats from Dustin Stoner, Wildlife Conservation officer.

Chuck Keeports of the U. S. Forest Service led a creek study, showing the students erosion from the storm last week, and how the powerful currents moved large rocks and piled debris against a fence.

Karen Donovall provides learning support at both schools, and is a consummate bird-watcher.

She showed the students four methods of identifying birds, beginning with determining their size and shape. “We then look at color patterns, then at flight patterns and behavior,” she said.

The habitat where the birds are found is important, too, she added, as birds tend to seek particular conditions.

Donovall said the key was to teach them how to observe. “I give them hints, pictures, shadow cards and then we go on a birding expedition around the field so they can practice the skills.”

Tammy said the farm is the oldest homestead in the Sugar Grove area. She said that they use self-sustaining farming and conservation practices, like rotating the cattle every evening from one paddock to another to ensure minimal waste, “awesome” grass yield and healthy soils.