Usually, the Newton High School FFA chapter and Harvey County Farm Bureau Association team up once a year to take young students out to local farms to experience an agricultural-based lifestyle. This year, the organizations are doing something a little different — they're bringing the farm to the students.
For the first time, the Newton FFA chapter will be hosting an agricultural day camp, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 11 in the NHS ag shop. The camp is free and open to students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The idea itself originated with the high school students and the Harvey County Farm Bureau was very quick to add its support as a partner organization, according to president Margaret Goering.
"Part of our purpose is to educate people about agriculture, and so we're always looking for opportunities to get the word out about the importance of agriculture," Goering said.
Students attending the day camp will have the chance to participate in three different educational and hands-on activities, according to Newton FFA officer Kit Kingsley. Each session will focus on a different aspect of the agricultural industry, including horticulture, animal science and mechanics (the three areas central to Newton FFA). Lessons will range from learning about the insects important in agriculture to building a small motor out of batteries and seeing how it works — "just different aspects of agriculture that people don't really think of as agriculture," as Kingsley put it.
Chapter officers and Farm Bureau members will help lead the stations, while the camp will culminate with an activity for all attendees — all the while giving young students a chance to learn and experience a subject matter with which they may be unfamiliar.
"The idea is to kind of spark young minds and help them discover something for them to be passionate about. When I was little, I never really knew anything about agriculture, and now it's what I'm going into. I'm going to college for it," said Kingsley, currently a senior at NHS. "I feel like it'd be really awesome to maybe help change a life and help them find a way that they can learn better and involve the community."
Outside of Walton Rural Life Center, Kingsley is aware that students may not have that exposure to ag-based learning. The Farm Bureau Association and Goering are aware of it as well, which is why Goering said the organization was happy to join the Newton FFA in this new endeavor.
Having helped with the Day on the Farm events in the past, Goering said it is crucial to expose young students to agriculture, especially as the current generation continues to become less aware of that lifestyle and its ties to the food that ends up on our tables.
Knowing it is crucial to share that agricultural knowledge, Goering noted it is also important that the current generation takes ownership in that, which is why she was glad to sponsor the efforts of the Newton FFA in putting on the agricultural day camp.
"We are excited about working with the FFA because they are the next generation that will need to run agriculture," Goering said. "It's important that they learn a lot by teaching the younger students."
Teaching is an opportunity that Kingsley admitted she looks forward to with this camp, having the chance to share new experiences and generate interest in a particular area of study for those students who attend.
"If they don't know that they want to be involved in agriculture, this is kind of a nice way to let them know that this is what agriculture is and this is how it's so diverse," Kingsley said. "It's just going to be a really fun day with tactile learning, so you get to do a bunch of little projects and learn about your surroundings and everything that happens around you. Being more aware is never really a bad thing."
Registration for the camp is open through Nov. 7 and those who would like their student to attend can email their name, phone number, child's name, child's grade and any allergies they may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.