After three years of absence, Grown in Grey, a local agricultural education event for Grade 5 students, returned to the Desboro arena on April 18 and 19. About 550 students from schools in Dundalk, Durham, Hepworth, Meaford, Port Elgin, and Owen Sound attended the event to learn about agriculture in Grey County.
Thirty-one learning stations representing all aspects of agriculture and related industries filled the ice surface and dressing rooms of the arena. Students were divided into groups of about ten and rotated every ten minutes from station to station to hear from farmers and others in agriculture about their area of expertise.
Henry Feenstra managed a tractor safety station showing the improvements in safety features from a 1950’s era John Deere tractor to a current model outfitted with a cab, GPS guidance system, and buddy seat for training purposes.
“This is a great event,” said Feenstra. “Kids these days have no idea of all that is involved in agriculture, and they get a taste of it here.”
Stations with live animals were very popular. The Pigmobile showed a sow with her litter of pigs. A horse and two alpacas were also present. Lindsey Coles and her son Rob showed their Speckle Park heifer and talked about showing cattle at fairs. Lindsey was surprised to hear students comment about the show stick, commonly used at fairs, being a prod or a tool of discipline on the animals.
“It’s the very opposite,” she said. “By rubbing the animal’s belly, when standing in the ring, it helps to calm them.”
Other stations included dairy, beef, bees, maple syrup, soil and crop, apples, wool, 4-H, farm safety, dog sense (learning how to behave around a strange dog), master gardeners, and a model farm. Businesses and organizations including the Egremont/Proton Federation of Agriculture, Hydro One, Lystek, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, OMAFRA/MECP, Public Health, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Educator, Stewardship Grey Bruce, and Agronomy Advantage also volunteered staff and time to man their stations.
Henry Reinders has chaired Grown in Grey for the last 15 years or so. He said volunteers are the backbone of this event.
“We had over 100 people running the stations and acting as group guides,” said Reinders. The organizing committee was helped this year by the Pursuits class at Georgian Bay Community School who set up and took down tables, chairs, mats, gates, and did other jobs before and after the event. They acted as guides for the student groups and led games and activities for them during outside time at lunch. They were a fantastic help.”
All the volunteers were fed a hot lunch prepared by the Grey County Women’s Institute. Elaine Catto heads up the group of ladies who looked after the lunch. “We washed at least 114 plates after lunch on the first day so it’s one of the largest groups we’ve had here,” commented Catto.
Teachers were complimentary of the organization of the event and the quality of the stations and volunteers. Station leaders also commented on the attentiveness of the students and the quality of their questions. Jim Brick, who worked with Henry Feenstra at the tractor safety station, stated he felt the students were more engaged and asked better questions than he had witnessed in previous years.
Reinders summed up Grown in Grey by saying it’s important that people and our future consumers have some knowledge of where their food comes from. “There are a lot of misconceptions about agriculture but Grown in Grey allows students to learn from those who know it best.”