Event gives local kids a taste of farming 101.

By Amy Bickel
The Hutchinson News- abickel@hutchnews.com Reno County farmer Derek Zongker wasn't surprised that only a few hands popped up when he asked a class of 20 third-graders if they had ever ridden in a combine. It also wasn't a shock that none of them knew what the $300,000-plus machine was even called. "Is it a gigantic lawn mower?" asked one Avenue A Elementary third-grader. Well, not quite, Zongker said of the tool he and others use to cut commodities like corn and wheat. "Kids these days are two or three generations removed" from the family farm, Zongker said. "All they know is going down to Dillons or Wal-Mart. They don't think about where their food is produced." On Wednesday, however, 369 Hutchinson third-graders got a lesson in agriculture 101 during the fourth annual "Farm 2 U" event on the Kansas State Fairgrounds. The day's focus was on "the four Fs" of agriculture - fiber, fuel, food and "pharmaceuticals," said Zongker, president of the Reno County Farm Bureau, the organization that hosts the event. Children learned about topics ranging from how a grain elevator works to what different products are made from cattle and where ingredients in pizza come from. "Kansas farmers actually grow everything that goes into your pizza," Reno County 4-H Agent Joan Krumme told one class. The event also dispelled a few myths. For instance, Allen Magnet School third-grader Tyris Chapman said he was fascinated by the automatic milking machine demonstrated by Callie Unruh, with Southwest Dairy Farmers' mobile classroom. "I thought (cows) were milked by hand," Tyris said. Unruh said some students even think that chocolate milk comes from cows, too. That is why the educational and promotional association has the mobile classroom, complete with a live jersey cow named Jitterbug and a milking machine. She travels to different events and schools promoting agriculture and the dairy industry. Avenue A Elementary teacher Jana Neufeld said she wouldn't be surprised if only one or two percent of her class have ridden in a combine or seen a cow milked. She noted that the program has been a good addition to their curriculum, explaining that she takes what they learn back to the classroom. "It's amazing what the kids don't know and what they take for granted," she said.