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Area fourth-graders experience farm life at 29th annual Ag Days

Beekeeper Harry Patterstalks about honeybees for students Tuesday Ag Day Mooseheart. The Kane County Farm Bureau event is designed teach

Beekeeper Harry Patterson talks about honeybees for students Tuesday at Ag Day at Mooseheart. The Kane County Farm Bureau event is designed to teach students how agriculture touches their everyday life. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 22, 2013 11:51AM

MOOSEHEART — In celebration of National Agriculture Week this week, the Kane County Farm Bureau Ag Literacy Program and Women’s Committee is once again welcoming fourth-grade students and their teachers to the annual Ag Days program.

Ag Days is held each year at the Mooseheart Fieldhouse at Mooseheart Road and Route 31.

“I think it’s nice for kids to see what goes on at the farm,” said Jennifer Bazzoli, fourth-grade teacher at Clinton Elementary School in South Elgin, during her school’s visit on Tuesday.

“This opens their eyes to what’s around here in Illinois,” agreed fourth-grade teacher Mary Jane Poulin, also from Clinton Elementary.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our state,” said Randy Steinheimer, fourth-grade teacher at Freeman Elementary School in Aurora. “Students get to think about farms as a place where things are grown and also learn how other businesses are associated with farming.”

Freeman Elementary fourth grade student Eli Bradford, who loves corn on the cob, said he had been looking forward to attending Ag Days.

“I want to learn about how corn grows in Illinois,” he said.

Dan Klein from Klein’s Farm and Garden Market in Elgin showed the children examples of Indian corn, corn that is used for making popcorn, and sweet corn.

“It’s best to eat sweet corn when it’s fresh,” Klein said. “Once you pick it, the sugars can turn to starch.”

New activities

This year marks the 29th year that Ag Days have been held. A new format improved the flow of students as they moved from one learning station to the next on Tuesday. While some of the volunteers who taught the students have been coming to Ag Days for many years, there also were some new faces and new activities.

Deputy general counsel Tom Pavelko and actuarial analyst Luen Khaw of American Agricultural Insurance Company have volunteered at Ag Days for the past three years. They brought a new game, “Farm-O,” which is played like bingo. After being given a definition, the children had to come up with the farm word in order to place a chip on their Farm-O card.

“Acre” was defined as a unit of land measurement, while “cultivator” was described as a machine that loosens and prepares the soil.

“I think this is very educational for the children,” Khaw said.

Plato Center chicken farmers Ken and Nancy Meyer have been volunteering at Ag Days for the past 18 years.

“We have lots of breeds of chickens that crossbreed,” Nancy said. “We sell eggs, chickens and roosters. You only need one rooster in order for 10 hens to produce fertile eggs.”

Students who visited the Meyer station were able to see a variety of baby chicks.

“I hatched 18 chicks on Sunday for Ag Days,” Nancy said.

Soybean farmer Janet Hodel from Metamora has been teaching people about soybeans since 1990. She also has been an Ag Days volunteer for the past 10 years.

“Just because Wednesday, March 20, is the first day of spring doesn’t mean that we’re going to plant soybeans,” Hodel told the students. “There are 29 states that grow soybeans. This year, the amount of land in Illinois used for growing soybeans could cover close to 9 million football fields. We export 50 percent of what we grow. Soybeans are the good ‘green’ bean. Soybean oil is used for making biodiesel fuel and ink that is used to print newspapers and magazines.”

History lessons

Helen Bauer of Garfield Farm in Campton Hills has been teaching Ag Days attendees about pioneer farm life for the past seven years.

“We try to give them the flavor of what it was like in the 1840s,” Bauer said. “They didn’t have the big farm machines at that time. While one farm today can feed 50 families, one farm back then only fed one family.”

Harry Patterson of Oak Park is a semi-retired teacher and coach from West Aurora School District 129. He was once named Kane County Teacher of the Year. He also has been a beekeeper for 30 years.

“During the Civil War, soldiers would put a honeycomb over a wound in order to prevent gangrene,” Patterson said. “Bee stings are used in Europe and India today by people suffering from arthritis, muscular dystrophy and gout. Honey is the only food that will not spoil. It does not contain bacteria. Royal jelly produced by bees is high in energy. I sold royal jelly to a runner. She won 21 of the 23 races that she entered.”

Ag Days attendees agreed that their visit to Mooseheart was definitely worth the trip.

“Ag Days is perfect,” said Michelle Smith, a fourth-grade teacher at Ferson Creek Elementary School in St. Charles. “The kids get a little of everything.”

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