Gusts don't stop gusto for agriculture

FFA members share knowledge with third-graders

Staff writer

Storm clouds and blowing winds put a damper on the annual FFA Ag Awareness Day activities last Wednesday, but did little to stop the members’ determination to inform elementary children about livestock, crops and machinery.

Junior Caitlyn Maloney faced the full brunt of the weather conditions as she instructed groups of area third-grade students. She said she didn’t mind the weather and was pleased that the event didn’t get canceled — again.

“We were supposed to have it Friday, and then it got canceled,” she said. “Then, when I heard we were supposed to have a storm, I was like ‘Oh no!’ I love doing this each year, and didn’t want to cancel it because of a little weather. It’s too much fun.”

Maloney said her purpose is two-fold: to give the children a chance to see horses, like hers, up close — and to make sure that they know the proper safety rules.

“If you don’t know where to stand, you could get your head kicked off your shoulders,” she said. “Safety has become second nature for me because I grew up on the farm, but many of the kids here are from the city and they don’t know that they could get seriously injured. Horses need their space, just like humans.”

With waving hand gestures and a strong vocal delivery, Maloney easily captured her audience’s attention — even when the wind blew, carrying her voice in the opposite direction.

“You just learn how to talk so that they can hear you,” she said.

Maloney said the attentiveness of the students made her job easier. In a couple cases, she said, it was hard to give her presentation because of talkative students — but said that was a wonderful issue to have.

Only a few feet away, twin sister Alicia Maloney had the opposite problem: she couldn’t get the students to ask questions.

In previous years, Alicia Maloney helped her sister run the horse project booth. She said it was a great experience, but she wanted to do something different this year — so, she brought two of her chickens: an australorp cock and a production red hen.

She said she loved to watch the expressions on the children’s faces as they listened to her talk — especially when her birds decided to talk.

“It’s in the eyes,” she said of the children in front of her. “They just love to hear him crow.”

A few days before the educational event, Alicia Maloney was trying to think of a way to make the schoolchildren remember her booth. After moments of pondering, she remembered her refrigerator full of eggs and decided to make cookies.

“I just thought it would tie in everything that I had talked about,” she said. “Who doesn’t like cookies made with farm fresh eggs?”

FFA member Zach Dvorak said he didn’t have any trouble with the children at his booth; they all seemed to enjoy petting and holding his kids.

While most seemed content to just pet the young animals, he said many wanted to feed them. So, he got out the sweet feed and let each child grab a handful. Dvorak said he had to be careful that the goats did not eat too much, “otherwise they’ll just bloat up and die.”

“You’ve got to be careful when you’re feeding goats,” he said. “Just the wrong thing, or too much of a good thing, can be the death of them.”

Blane Bernhardt, 9, of Hillsboro said he was glad he came to the educational event. While he and his friend learned a lot about agriculture, Bernhardt said he was more fascinated by all the farm equipment on-site.

“I liked the balers,” he said. “They were fun to see.”

Each year, the Marion-Florence FFA chapter puts on an agriculture awareness day in an attempt to educate area third-graders on different areas of agriculture. This year, it included: poultry, goats, sheep, swine, horses, farm machinery, and ATV safety.

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