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High School, elementary students team up for agriculture

Willmar High School sophomore Jordan Gatewood, left, introduces one of his 4-week-old lambs to a group of elementary school students Thursday at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

With the assistance of Willmar FFA, students at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools discovered Thursday exactly where cheeseburgers come from. The Willmar Senior High School agriculture students spent "Ag Day" at Roosevelt Elementary showing animals and talking about the elements of farming to 30 classes of kindergarten and first-grade students -- a day that has been hosted by the class for 25 years.

Dave Damhof, agriculture instructor at Willmar Senior High School and FFA adviser, said the day is great for both the high school students and elementary students.

"It's a fun activity for the students who get to share their experiences," Damhof said. "Plus it helps them develop leadership skills through their presentations they give to the children."

The 30 FFA students set up 10 different stations for the elementary students from the two schools to get hands-on experience.

The high school students had 4-week-old lambs, a 7-year-old mini-horse, ducks, geese, a cow and its calf, a plant station, recreational vehicle safety and a tractor to show the younger students.

Ashley Thorpe, a senior and FFA president, said Ag Day is always a great opportunity for the young students to ask questions like, "where cheeseburgers come from?" She said the elementary students always seem excited when they get to see animals they don't usually see.

"I just enjoy seeing them and their faces when they learn something new," Thorpe said. "It surprises me what they learn that they didn't know before, which is something you know just by growing up on a farm."

At his first Ag Day, freshman Tom Freed said the day is set up perfectly to start younger kids thinking about agriculture.

"It's a good experience for younger kids to know about FFA," Freed said. "There are a lot of organizations out there, but if you're really interested in the program you can go right into FFA."

The day fell perfectly in line with the classroom schedule of Pam Roehl, a kindergarten teacher at Kennedy Elementary. Roehl said she usually finishes a farm unit in the spring.

"I think it's great they volunteer and helped and share what they know about with the smaller students," Roehl said.

For as much fun the students have, both young and older, Damhof said organizing the day was difficult as all the animals came from various FFA members' farms and homes.

Damhof, who is retiring at the end of this school year, said the day went very well compared to last year's which had the high school class rained out in the afternoon.

"It's a great day and hands-on event to see the animals," Damhof said. "It's a day for them to learn a little more about the animals and see what agriculture is all about."