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John Lamb, Published August 18 2012

Scouts get hands-on experience at ag-related jamboree

FARGO – Some milked it. Some went whole hog. Some played in the dirt.

A group of 750 Boy Scouts and their parents descended on West Fargo and Fargo this weekend as part of the Scout Jamboree.

Scouts sought merit badges in one of 15 different agriculture-based fields, gaining hands-on experiences with cows, pigs, horses, soil and water conservation and farm mechanics.

“It teaches kids about programming they never did before and, who knows, one of these guys may go into this profession based on their experience today,” said Brad Olson, program director of the Northern Lights Council, which serves Boy Scouts in North Dakota and parts of Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana.

The Scouts used the Red River Valley Fairgrounds as a base of operations and campground.

Olson said such big group meetings occur about every four years, though in 2010 3,000 scouts and parents camped out on the North Dakota Capitol lawn in Bismarck.

This weekend’s gathering also tied into the opening of the new Jon L. Wanzek Center for Scouting in Fargo, dedicated Thursday.

Saturday afternoon Olson and a small group of Scouts were at the North Dakota State University Dairy Barn learning about dairy cows.

“For a lot of these guys from a city, they may have never been to a farm before,” Olson said.

“I think it’s really exciting to try something new. It’s exciting to try this,” said Mike Gotta, a 12-year-old from Bismarck.

Not everyone was as excited.

“New technology, same old story,” said 16-year-old Cody Davis, who lives on a dairy farm near Holloway, Minn.

The Boy Scouts were given a presentation, then a small tour of the facility and an explanation of how things were done. In the milking area, they were shown how to clean the cow’s teats, then how to attach a mechanized milker that monitored production. Scouts were also shown how to milk a cow by hand.

“Think of this as a ‘Dirty Jobs,’ Boy Scout edition,” said Cole Ruppercht from Cass County Extension, as he had the scouts put on rubber gloves. He added that “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe is a former Eagle Scout.

Ruppercht explained how 400 gallons of blood will go through a cow’s system a day as a lactating cow has the second strongest heart, second only to a giraffe.

A dairy cow will produce from five to seven gallons of milk at a time and get milked twice a day.

“It was a little weird when I had to test it first,” said Gotta after his turn. “It was fun. It was so cool. I never thought I’d milk a cow.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533