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Kids on the farm: Willmar preschoolers visit shrimp, grain and dairy farms

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Carolyn Lange / Tribune It was a muddy day on the farm Thursday for 18 preschool students from Cardinal Kids who toured three different farms, including a shrimp farm, grain farm and dairy farm.2 / 7
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Preschool students from Cardinal Kids in Willmar watch a tank of young shrimp swim and eat at the Simply Shrimp farm near Blomkest during a farm tour Thursday.3 / 7
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Paul Damhof, from the Simply Shrimp farm near Blomkest, shows a shrimp to preschool students from Cardinal Kids in Willmar. The students visited three area farms Thursday.4 / 7
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Max Brown, left, and Callan Neuman, both from Cardinal Kids Preschool in Willmar, spend some time Thursday in a big tractor on Kyle Knott's rural Raymond farm. The visit was part of a tour to three different farms.5 / 7
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Daxton Kleinhuizen, from Cardinal Kids Preschool in Willmar, puts corn, soybeans and wheat into a bag to take home. The activity for the 4-year-old students was one part of their visit Thursday to a rural Raymond farm.6 / 7
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Melanie Dickman, center, reads a book Thursday to preschool students visiting Louriston Dairy near Murdock as part of a tour of three separate farms.7 / 7

WILLMAR — It was a muddy day to be on a farm Thursday, but that was just fine with the group of 18 students from Cardinal Kids Preschool who tromped through the immense — and very muddy — tire tracks on Kyle Knott's farm and craned their necks to look up at the tall grain bin full of corn on the rural Raymond farm.

Thankfully, most of the kids were wearing mud boots.

After petting the farm cat, the 4-year-old students filled baggies with corn, soybeans and wheat that Knott grows on his farm and climbed into a couple of his John Deere tractors.

The experience was part of a tour to three very different farms — one where saltwater shrimp are raised, another where corn, soybeans, wheat and sugar beets are raised and another where thousands of dairy cows are milked.

"I'm hoping they learn to appreciate the outdoors and what hard work truly is out on a farm and how it's more than just playing with animals and driving a tractor," said Kayla Anderson, lead teacher for the class.

Anderson said she hopes the kids take some of their stories home to tell their parents.

The excursion was organized by Melanie Dickman, from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Kandiyohi County Farm Bureau.

The goal was to expose younger kids to farms to help them learn where food comes from, said Dickman, who also has a young daughter in the class.

Besides visiting a grain farm, the kids went to Simply Shrimp in rural Blomkest, where owner Paul Damhof talked about how the tiny shrimp are cared for in the 17 different tanks of water that are housed in a converted dairy barn.

Even though the water looks red, Damhof told the kids that the balance of nutrients and warm temperatures are carefully monitored to make sure the shrimp grow.

"It's healthy, happy water," Damhof told the kids. "We've got a bit of the ocean right here in Minnesota."

Damhof used a net to scoop up a shrimp to show the kids, who squealed when the shrimp kept jumping out of Damhof's hands.

"The kids have been very excited," Dickman said.

"We've tried to keep it hands-on, so we got to see some shrimp and see how they grow in the water and they got to climb in some tractors and see a semi and grain bin," she said.

The final stop was at Louriston Dairy, part of the Riverview Dairy farms, near Murdock.

Dickman said it's important that everyone — not just kids — learn about agriculture.

"A lot of people don't understand where food comes from and how important that is to the economy and our livelihoods," she said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750