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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 24 2011

Oak Grove students attend Ag Day

GEORGETOWN, Minn. – If you want to grow food for people’s tables, bone up on your math, science and technology.

That’s what seventh-graders from Fargo’s Oak Grove Lutheran School learned Friday, as they took part in the school’s first Ag Day at the Andrew Borgen farm near here.

With several tractors and combines to clamber into or drive and 11 stations explaining global positioning systems, LIDAR, and how crops are planted, grown and harvested, the farm’s massive pole barn became a hands-on classroom.

“You don’t just sit on the tractor like the old days,” science teacher Jon Gossett said. “It’s not that old-fashioned ma and pa operation.”

Gossett said his students were gaining an appreciation for where their pizza and other goodies get their start.

“Sitting down in a restaurant and your dad picks up the tab, you don’t learn a whole lot,” Gossett said. “Out here, you understand where everything comes from.

“The kids are learning. They may not care to know how long a sugar beet is in the ground, but they sure know when they put it on their frosted flakes, where it came from,” Gossett said.

He said he also wanted them to be able to relate the science and math they learn at school to real-world work.

Modern farming requires knowledge of many disciplines, Gossett said. Farmers must communicate well, and juggle math, genetics, chemistry, economics and soil sciences.

Georgetown-area farmer Shane Sharpe, who has two children attending Oak Grove, helped organize the event.

He farms nearly 8,000 acres in partnership with his two brothers-in-law and father-in-law. They grow corn, sugar beets, soybeans and wheat in rotation, he said.

He said he thought the event, held at the farmstead of one of his brothers-in-law, would allow the students “to be able to come out and touch and see” modern high-tech farm equipment, and the products produced.

The students were enthusiastic about the outing, though several stuck to the tractor cabs to ward off the chill of the first day of fall.

Noah Nordby has a no-nonsense view of farming after his morning of climbing up and down combine and tractor ladders. Driving a tractor was “cool,” he said.

“If there were no farmers, there would be no food, and the world would be dead,” Nordby said.

Emily Teigen was impressed by the global positioning systems, computers and other technologies.

“I guess I never realized how much goes into farming,” she said.

Tatiana Domitrovich said the 4-H displays on food production were also eye-openers.

“It makes you look at things differently,” she said.

The event was an effective extension of Oak Grove’s classrooms, high school Principal Darrin Roach said.

“This is the best way to teach; get kids involved with everything; hands-on learning,” he said, adding that he’d like to make the outing an annual event.

Gossett and Sharpe said the tractors are guided by global positioning systems and advanced computers. Grain carts can now robotically follow a combine at the push of a button, Gossett said.

It also requires a good grasp of mathematics to handle the business side of a farm, he said.

“We talk about using math, and they (the students) say, ‘Well, I don’t want to be an engineer.’ You don’t need to be an engineer to understand how important math is,” Gossett said.

“I wish every school around here would do this,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583