June 5, 2010


Ag-Stravaganza educates children

14th annual event at Jr. Fairgrounds introduces them to life on the farm

EducateJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
A Cornell Cooperative Extension master gardener shows Appleby Elementary fourth-grade students, from left, Kelsey Chase, Jenica Jenney, Dakota Martin and Hannah Askew how worms can help compost kitchen scraps during Ag-Stravaganza, an agricultural field day held Thursday and Friday at the Cortland County Junior Fairgrounds.

Staff Reporter

Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Jody Lacey displayed her worm-eating compost pile to the delight of school children Friday at Cortland’s 14th annual Ag-Stravaganza.
Shredded newspapers disguised the squirming red worms beneath, feasting on the remnants of kitchen scraps such as potato peels and eggshells.
It was one of many demonstrations at the event.
The Ag-Stravaganza field trip is geared toward school children from around the county and is held at the Cortland County Junior Fairgrounds. The stations introduce children to various agricultural industries and expose them to such things as sheep shearing and the digestion of dairy cows.
At her station, Lacey said any nondairy and nonmeat product can be composted.
The process is called vermi-composting and it works best indoors in moist, dark locations such as a basement, garage or under the kitchen counter.
Lacey said the makeshift compost bin, a Tupperware container, can be changed about every six months. The digested scraps make rich fertilizer for gardens and also keep weeds from growing around flowers.
A much larger compost bin can be kept outside and used for bulk composting of lawn scraps, said Lacey, adding the large bin can get very hot, in excess of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and therefore would not rely on worm digestion, but rather microbial composting.
Both processes involve breaking down a biodegradable material such as kitchen scraps or dead leaves to make mulch, which can then be used to fertilize plants and gardens. Kitchen scraps can be thrown on the lawn compost pile as well.
It is important to know the product you are composting, said Lacey, since a pesticide can ultimately end up polluting a plant if it is turned into a fertilizer and spread on a garden.
Ten-year-old Hannah Askew, a fourth-grader at Marathon’s Appleby Elementary School, said that at the station she learned “worms are important.”
“They can help the environment by decomposing,” Askew said, mentioning banana peels as one kitchen scrap that can be composted.
Askew said she would tell her family to start a compost pile of its own, after attending the Ag-Stravaganza.
Heather Birdsall, senior resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, said the composting display was a new feature at this year’s Ag-Stravaganza.
At one station, children learned all about chickens.
Petting a rooster, the young instructor fluffed the neck feathers, telling children they are called “hackles” and holding out the rooster’s foot, pointed to the back claw which is used for fighting, saying the claw is known as a “spur.”
Birdsall said the Standard Bred Harness Association, which had a pony station at the event, makes the Ag-Stravaganza possible yearly through a $750 grant.


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