KELLIHER, Minn. -- Some Minnesota high school students are learning about agriculture in an up-close and personal way this year.
Four students in Amy Mastin’s Intro to Ag class have purchased their own cattle, started growing produce in their classroom and are teaching younger students about the industry. They even put on an ag fair at the school last week, inviting local producers to share information about their work with elementary students
“I think the elementary kids enjoyed it,” said senior Riley Gilge, one of the Intro to Ag students. “I think a lot of them learned some things.” Other students in the class are senior Kaleigha Donnell, junior Riley Dreher and sophomore Lylah Kingbird.
Mastin, who is in her second year as a science and ag teacher at Kelliher, said only one of her four Intro to Ag students grew up on a farm, but all of them are learning new things about agriculture. The ag fair was a way for the class to share some of what they’ve learned with younger students
“They wanted to bring in the producers from the area, to show their products and teach the kids what’s grown around here and how it gets to their plate or how it gets to be their clothing,” said Mastin, who received the 2018 Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Outstanding Teacher Award while teaching at Laporte.
“The kids had such a good time (at the ag fair),” Mastin said. “It was really fun to watch them. Jeff Thurlow was here and he ropes and rides horses. That’s how he farms. He did some roping and taught kids how to rope. They also got to feel the wool of a sheep and learn about how it becomes clothing.”
Mastin’s students also installed and planted a hydroponic grow tower in the classroom last week. They planted lettuce, kale and basil. They plan to add cilantro, because Mastin said the Kelliher School kitchen staff has asked for that. While teaching the class about gardening, the produce also will be used to feed their fellow students.
“We’ll be putting stuff on the salad bar at school,” Mastin said.
The Kelliher Area Health Care Fund, a community nonprofit, has helped fund the class project.
“One of our goals is the health of our community, and access to food is one of the big issues because we’re basically in a food desert,” said Diane Mostad, a member of the fund committee. “So anytime we can support the youth and the community in efforts that help bring fresh food, we’re all about supporting that whenever we can. What a fit for everything we’re trying to do, and to have somebody with all the energy Amy has.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the class curriculum is the cattle project. The students were able to purchase three steers from a local farm. The class has taken trips to weigh the cattle, gone to a larger ranch for a pregnancy check and vaccinated the animals. They also have designed their own company brand to weld and cold brand the steers, and created a line of products to sell. They will be learning about feed conversion and the sale and marketing aspect of ranching.
Mastin said she has been impressed with the students’ willingness to try new things.
“They’ll just jump right in with their ideas and just go for it,” she said. “I told them they could do anything they want, and I will find a way to get it done.”