Ag/Tech Camp students at Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center got to tour an area grass-fed cattle operation and watch a stone-ground flour mill in action during a visit to Janzen Family Farms on Monday.

Forty-four students made the trek to the farm, located north of Elbing. The students, grades kindergarten through fifth grade, are part of a two-week Ag/Tech Camp program at the elementary school. Students have worked in the school’s garden; made bread, soap, freezer jam and pickles; crafted paper mache goats during art time; and experimented with Lego robotics, among other activities. The students sold many wares at a farmers’ market last Thursday and will do so again this Thursday.

But on Monday, the students headed to Janzen Family Farms. Farm manager Norm Oeding started the day by showing the students cattle.

The cattle are purely pastured animals, Oeding said, feeding only on grass. The farm has 10 grass-fed cows, with eight calves and one on the way.

Students then got to check out the Oeding’s garden and recently planted fruit trees, with plenty of opportunities for the students to share about the crops and projects they have undertaken at the Walton school as part of the school’s agricultural emphasis. Oeding’s wife, Malinda, also joined to help answer questions.

After that, it was off to see the flour micromill. Norm Oeding grows his own grain and then grinds it with a stone micromill on the farm under the name Henry Creek Flour Mill, named for the creek that flows through the Janzen farm. One of the advantages to stone-ground wheat, Oeding said, was it produces less heat than steel mills, and heat can kill enzymes and nutrients in the wheat.

The mill can produce about 50 pounds of flour per hour, with 1 pound of wheat making 1 pound of floor, Oeding said. The whole wheat and whole white wheat flour can be found at some area retailers, including Prairie Harvest in Newton. The Oedings also have a baker in Wichita who uses their flour to make baked goods marketed under the “Little Red Hen Bakery” name. Students were treated to Little Red Hen Bakery raisin rolls and organic lemonade.

The Janzen family farming history goes back into the 1800s. A few years ago, with then-farmers Mark and Hennie Janzen wanting to retire from farming and no clear family successors to take over the operation, the Janzen family chose to move the farm in the direction of organic and sustainable agricultural practices, and Norm Oeding began working for the family in the spring of 2007. Oeding had experience working with certified organic grain and bread, as he had been — and still is — farming certified organic crops in Kingman County. Norm now manages the farm, with the Oeding couple living in the farmhouse.

Norm Oeding said he sees food production being concentrated into too few corporations, and he said when examining many products bought in grocery stores, there are many manufactured ingredients in products that provide no nutritional value. He said he “grew older” on a small farm, where his family raised cows and food and ate as much of their own food as possible.

“It was fresh and nutritious,” he said.

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