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Ag Days: More than 350 fourth graders learn where food comes from

by BERL TISKUS
Reporter | May 23, 2024 12:00 AM

Games of Hot Potato and Bingo were going on in the indoor arena at Josh and Sarah Senecal’s ranch on May 14 and 15. While it was fun, Future Farmers of America Bryanne Zemple, Brianne Zempel, Seeley McDonald, and Maizey McDonald were also using the games to teach kids about the humble spud.  

Why do growers in Lake County ship their potatoes? How do potatoes grow, what types are there, and how are they harvested? Fun facts abounded. 

The FFA students manned one of 14 information “booths” scattered around the Senecals’ place for the annual Fourth Grade Ag Days. 

The main goal of the event is to teach kids about agriculture and to promote farming and ranching. Other stations offered information on dairy, sheep, poultry, 4-H, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, 4-H, cattle, pigs, grain, goats, bees, horses, and – just for fun – a hay ride.

Students Holden and Bradtick’s favorite part of the day were the potato games and the burgers. Pablo Elementary’s Bella and Kay loved the potato game and the baby goats. Alexavra liked learning about goats too. 

“The best day ever,” one group of kids called in unison. Another young participant liked the toy dairy farm set-up, with all kinds of cows and a milking parlor. Horses, for lots of the girls, were their favorites. 

“All of them were okay,” said a little dark-haired girl with a sparkling smile. Regardless of which booth won the popularity contest, everything was well orchestrated. 

Four groups coordinate Fourth Grade Ag Days: Northwest Counties Farm Bureau, the Western Montana Stockmen's Association, MSU Lake County Extension, and the Lake County Conservation District. 

Josh Senecal wanted to see the event held on a ranch again, since for years it was held at Walt and Pat Vermadahl’s place in Irvine Flats, and offered his. The groups agreed that all the exhibits should be agriculture-related. 

They meet three times a year to plan, Senecal said. Volunteers make the event run smoothly, too.

Lunch for a bunch of hungry youngsters is one place  volunteers jump in. Beth Blevins, Farm Bureau member and local veterinarian, grills the burgers. Darigold donates milk for the kids, thanks to dairy farmer Greg Schock. The WMSA donates the hamburger; the Polson Chamber of Commerce buys the buns; and the Ronan Chamber provides chips. The Farm Bureau brings the condiments and the ice cream bars., and local bankers serve the food. 

“It went great,” Senecal said. “It always comes together.” 

MSU Lake County Extension Agent Taylor Mullen agreed. 

“There was no schedule,” she said, so she worked with Nick Courville, from Western Montana Stockmen’s Association, and got the event well organized. 

“The weather was beautiful,” she added.

All the schools across Lake County – “from Dayton to Arlee” – sent fourth graders. Dixon students came, too. All in all, there were 160 students on Tuesday and more than 200 on Wednesday. 

The grass was green, the apple tree was blooming, and lots of kids didn’t want to leave – the ultimate compliment.               

    Fourth graders listen as Sierra Symington asks them questions about horse colors. (Berl tiskus/Leader)
 
 
    Student Annabelle Seibert holds a Nigerian Dwarf Fainting Goat kid. The baby goats were a big hit with the kids at 4th grade Ag Days. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
 
 
    Horses enjoy green grass and a sunny day as 4th graders come and go to Ag Days at Josh and Sarah Senecal's ranch. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
 
 
    Senior 4-Her Lina Sturman talks to 4th graders about chickens, how much sunlight chickens need per day to continue laying eggs, how many eggs chickens lay in a year, different chicken breeds, and chicken housing. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)