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Lessons learned down on the farm

9/7/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

It's not uncommon to hear teachers and parents say they learned something at Kids Ag Day while accompanying local fourth-graders attending the event.

Thursday, it was kids of a different age talking about the benefits of the popular field trip, more than 10 years running at the Harold Kraus farm approximately 13 miles southwest of Hays.

Catie Doty, a senior at Hays High School, said she well remembers visiting the farm as a fourth-grader at O'Loughlin Elementary School in 2004.

Doty was one of approximately 20 FFA members from HHS who assisted with the 11 stations featuring presentations and information about life on a farm.

In fact, four Hays High students led the station on the uses of sunflowers.

Doty, who has helped at the event every year of her high school career, said she remembered some of the stations from her fourth-grade year, but there have been new ones through the years, too.

"I don't think that wheat display was here when I came," she said of the Kansas wheat presentation by Lois Keller of the Kansas Wheat Commission. "But I do remember others."

HHS senior Jack Polifka, one of the four presenters at the sunflower station, like Doty attended the 2004 Kids Ag Day when he was a fourth-grader at Wilson Elementary School.

Polifka said he remembered the nature walk led by Kraus' son, Lance Russell.

But that was about the last time Polifka thought much about the significance of agriculture until he reached high school age and decided to take Introduction to Agriculture as a freshman "just to try something different."

"It's a misconception a lot of people have, that to be in FFA, you have to be a farmer or live in the country," said Polifka, who has lived in town all his life.

"It was the best decision I made in my high school career," Polifka said of taking the intro to ag course.

He got involved in FFA and now is a veteran on the team under the leadership of ag teacher Curt Vajnar.

"I used to be a shy person, and (FFA) has helped me so much to be able to speak in front of people," said Polifka, who said he has changed his ideas of majoring in engineering in college and instead plans to start pursuing some sort of agriculture degree at Kansas State University next year.

"This has helped me so much as a person," Polifka said of his FFA experiences. "It's such a good program for anyone."

Enthusiastic voices could be heard all across the farm as the grade-schoolers made their way to the different stations on the pleasant fall morning.

Thea Haugen from FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History told students the "dos" and "don'ts" when running across a snake.

The students -- and adults -- learned about farm equipment, the importance of conserving water and where milk comes from.

Farm Bureau's Ag in Motion trailer showed the many hats worn by farmers, including that of a weatherman and an independent businessman, a mechanic and heavy equipment operator, a livestock manager and public policy advocate -- to name a few.

"There's stuff I'm learning here today, too," said Lane Abert, a Fort Hays State University elementary education major from Rocky Ford, Colo.

"My dad ran a beef operation, and there are things (here) I didn't know before," added Abert, a student teacher in Yvette Moritz's classroom at Roosevelt Elementary School.

"Kids remember what they learn here," Moritz said.

Hays High's Doty and Polifka are proof of that.