Rural life learning

Agriculture Day at Moffat County Fairgrounds impresses fourth-graders


Techniques learned on the ranch came in handy for the presenters at last weekend's annual Agriculture Day at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, as herds of fourth-grade students were wrangled and prodded through different displays.

The secret to herding fourth-graders: have plenty to do to keep their attention.


Ag Day organizers seemingly achieved that goal, as three elementary schools rotated children in and out of numerous displays geared toward teaching youngsters about the importance of agriculture in the county.

With the theme of' "You just can't have an Ag-less day in Moffat County," the Moffat County Cowbelles brought home the message about agriculture, as they have for the past decade.

"We split each school into three groups, and then take them around to the displays," Cowbelle Arloa Gerber said. "This is something fourth-graders look forward to. They are often overheard exclaiming, 'I get to go to Ag Day.'"

Totaling 165 students, Sunset, East and Ridgeview elementary schools divide the day by sending their fourth-grade classes to demonstrations on everything from branding cattle to homestead life.

Kasey Green's quiz helped the youths think about the hundreds of times they use agricultural products each day.

At the tour's first stop, Dollie Frentress showed the children the way farm work was done 100 years ago. Fourth-graders got hands-on experience learning to wash clothes on a washboard and hanging them on a clothesline with wooden clothespins.

For 10-year-old Rachel Sonntag, a fourth grader from Mrs. Seely's class at Sunset Elementary, it was an experience she won't soon forget.

"I washed this on the washboard, and now I have to iron it," she said as she hefted a 5-pound iron. "It's awesome."

After leaving the pavilion, a class took a short hayride over to the livestock barn for live animal displays.

Ten-year-old Alexis Gonzalez said she was learning a lot about agriculture, and the best part of the field trip was the hayride.

Arriving at the barn, the fourth-graders seemingly had 100 questions for Moffat County brand inspector Brad Ocker, who informed them of the 42,000 brands in Colorado.

"This is a Sombrero brand on a gray gelding," Ocker said, pointing to the hat brand on the horse. "The brands help them keep track of 1,500 horses at Sombrero Ranch."

Explaining how the actual branding process takes longer on cattle than on horses, Ocker soon had students identifying local brands.

Arick Young, a 10-year-old from Mr. Voorhees class at Sunset, had his head buried in the book of brands.

"It teaches you how to brand, and all about branding," he said.

A presentation on wildlife by Bruce Inness and David Moreno with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Colorado Wildlife Service had students studying the skulls, tracks and hides of the various critters found in the west.

Cries of "Ooohh" were heard as a skunk pelt was held up for the children.

Nine-year-old Terran Jensen quickly pointed out to the crowd that animals could also be identified by the scat they left behind, in addition to their footprints.

"It was really interesting," he said. "It showed you what to look for out in the woods."

Going to the John Deere tractor was the next stop, where Nate Balstad's explained how horsepower is measured on tractors, and the cost of modern farm equipment.

"This is a round bailer," Balstad told the crowd during the discussion on haying. "In Kremmling and Walden there are still folks that put up loose hay."

The annual Ag-Day event is put on by a number of people volunteering time and equipment.

The Cowbelles organized the event each year for the fourth-graders, and also assist in leading youngsters from location to location.

Alisa Comstock talked about horses and safety around farm animals, and challenged the kids to guess the age of her horse, Miss Bean.

Kyler Scott with Future Farmers of America showed the uses of animals and their by-products in everyday life, while 12-year-old Emily Wellman helped direct the children to the next display.

Tory Van Tassel, whose grandmother Florence normally shows the antique household devices, and whose grandfather Earl drove the hayride tractor for years, summed up the experience for the children.

"This is a pretty good deal," he said. "You can't find a kid that doesn't think a tractor and hayride is cool. They all are still young enough to want to ride on it."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or

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