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Bannock County farmers teach students about agriculture

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

McCAMMON – Bannock County Farm Bureau members went into the classroom March 3 to teach a group of fourth-graders in McCammon the difference between conventional and organic food production.

Bannock County farmers Stacy Burmester and Sandra Smith, who are both members of BCFB’s Promotion and Education Committee, also taught the students at Mountain View Elementary School a little about Idaho agriculture in general.

At the beginning of the lesson, almost all of the students thought there was a nutritional difference between food raised through conventional methods vs. food raised through organic methods.

By the end of the lesson, the students understood that while there is consumer demand for both organic and conventional food, organic and conventional farming are just different methods of producing food but the nutritional value of organically and conventionally produced food is the same.

“Conventional farming and organic farming are both farming; they both grow food but they use different methods,” said Smith, who raises beef cattle as well as wheat and hay, in Arimo.

Holding up two apples, she said, “If you eat both apples, they have the same ingredients in them. The nutritional level is the same.”

“We need both methods of farming to survive,” said Burmester, a hay farmer from Downey. “You could not feed the world with just organic farming. You have to have conventional farming as well.”

“You can eat both and they are both nutritious; it’s just a different way of farming,” she added.

The lesson was a hands-on learning experience that included apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers, bananas and grapes.

The students also watched a short video that explained the difference between conventional and organic farming: “While they use different methods, they both work to meet the global demand for food.”

Another short video introduced the fourth-graders to some of the many agricultural commodities that Idaho farmers and ranchers produce.

It explained that Idaho farmers and ranchers produce 185 different commodities and the state ranks in the top 10 nationally in 25 agricultural commodities.

The video taught the students some things they already knew – Idaho is the nation’s top potato-producing state – and some things they probably didn’t know – there are more cattle than people in Idaho, seed produced in Idaho is prized globally, Idaho ranks No. 1 in alfalfa hay production, and the state, along with part of Eastern Oregon, is home to the largest onion producing region in the United States.

Bannock County Farm Bureau members have been teaching fourth-grade students about agriculture for many years and in recent years have focused on explaining the difference between conventional and organic farming.

“The kids love that presentation; they have fun with it,” said Lorelle Anderson, the school’s fourth-grade teacher.

Burmester said the Bannock County Farm Bureau organization believes it’s important that youth understand where their food comes from “and that organic and conventional are just different methods of farming. They both produce nutritious food.”

“If we don’t tell the story of agriculture and what we do, they won’t hear it,” she added.

She concluded the lesson by telling the students: “We love what we do. It’s not easy sometimes to farm, so keep the farmers in your prayers.”