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Kids learn about farming at Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch

Charlie Walker 8 Bartlett holds pepper plant before dropping it planter.
Phoby Denise Moran.

Charlie Walker, 8, of Bartlett holds a pepper plant before dropping it in the planter. Photo by Denise Moran.

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Updated: August 3, 2012 6:07AM



HAMPSHIRE — Busloads of Elgin School District U46 students from the SAFE (Supervised Activities for Employed Parents) program gathered at Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch at Illinois 47 and Reinking Road last week for a lesson in farming.

The new “Farmer for a Day” program teaches children about farming — ranging from planting seeds to harvesting vegetables.

“We have 75 students from Fox Meadow Elementary School in Elgin and 130 students from Sycamore Trails Elementary School in Bartlett,” said Craig Wartinbee, site director for Sycamore Trails Elementary. “The kids range in age from kindergarten up to seventh grade.”

Noemi Hernandez has been involved with the SAFE program for 14 years. She is the SAFE site director for Fox Meadow Elementary. She also is a second grade teacher at Oakhill Elementary School in Streamwood.

“The SAFE program is run like a camp from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, from June 10 to Aug. 10,” Hernandez said. “Teachers and college students going into education run the program. SAFE is also offered before and after school during the school year. SAFE gives kids a place to go when their parents are working.”

The “Farmer for a Day” event was the first outdoor field trip for the 2012 SAFE summer program.

“Kids need to learn the importance of farming,” said Julie Sgarlata, educational director at Sycamore United Methodist Church and one of the leaders at the SAFE program on Thursday. “Lots of city kids have no idea of how food is grown before it is sold in the grocery store.”

The idea for “Farmer for a Day” came from Lloyd and Terry Goebbert, owners of Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch, and Hannah Speer, corporate events manager for Goebbert’s and a Salvation Army financial assistant.

“Lloyd thought ‘Farmer for a Day’ was a great idea,” Terry Goebbert said. “He wants kids to see how seeds are planted and how they grow.”

Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch has been operating in Hampshire for 29 years. Lloyd and Terry have three grown children who grew up on their farm. Their daughter, Jessie, was married on the farm in September 2011. Their older son, Jacob, is an outfielder for the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks. Their younger son, James, is a fourth-generation farmer who owns Go-Ro Fresh Produce in Union. It sells produce to grocery chains and wholesalers.

Out in the fields

While many children are accustomed to picking pumpkins and finding their way through the corn maze during the fall season at Goebbert’s, they had the chance on Thursday to go out to fields to plant seeds and pick vegetables.

“We picked beans, beets, cucumbers, and celery root,” said Geraldine Robinson, a SAFE director from Elgin.

“The kids planted cabbage and Indian corn off the cob,” said Speer. “The corn will be grown by this fall.”

Speer’s daughter, Beth, is an artist and teacher at Please Don’t Drink the Paint studio and gallery in Chester, Ill. Beth taught the children on Thursday how to use celery stalks as paintbrushes.

Temperatures rose to the triple digits on Thursday, but everyone stayed cool and had a good time.

“I’m very impressed at how well organized the day was,” said Hernandez. “The kids are well-hydrated and learning a lot.”

“I learned the difference between sweet corn and field corn,” said Hanna McCalmont, 11, of Elgin. “Field corn is taller. I also learned that if beets are left in the soil long enough, there are barely any roots.”



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