June 9, 2012


Fourth-graders learn about farm life

AgJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Rob Cat of Main Street Farms in Homer demonstrates to Homer fourth-graders Friday the process of sustainable aquaponics during Cornell Cooperative Extension’s annual Ag-Stravaganza at the Cortland County Junior Fairgrounds.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Jake Supley focused on his fingers as he spun a piece of wool into thread, trying a way of making cloth that dates back thousands of years.
“Kind of hard,” was the Cincinnatus Central School fourth-grader’s assessment Friday morning, although Tammie Whitson of Coldbrook Farm told him that he was doing well.
Whitson led a spinning demonstration, next to a display of quilt-making, as the 16th annual Ag-Stravaganza showed off agriculture for Cortland County fourth-graders at the County Junior Fairgrounds.
Ag-Stravaganza, sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, teaches children about how food is grown or produced, how other products are made and what agriculture means to Cortland County. This year’s event, which was Thursday and Friday, had 14 stations that showed raising livestock, poultry and horses, making maple syrup, growing crops and understanding forestry.
One station taught bicycle safety, which also provided physical activity for the children, said senior resource educator Heather Birdsall.
The event brought about 600 fourth-graders to the fairgrounds for several hours, moving from station to station every 15 minutes.
The students Friday were from Homer Elementary School, Cincinnatus Elementary School, Virgil Elementary School in the Cortland city school district and Appleby Elementary School in Marathon.
Food, printed materials and T-shirts for presenters were funded through a grant by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, which had a presentation about trotter race horses.
The presenters included two Homer High School sophomores from county 4-H, as Mary Cope discussed poultry and Emaleigh Perry worked with sheep shearer Brian McGee. Homer graduate Matt Sharpe, a rising senior at Cornell University, talked about cows with the students.
Whitson partnered with spinner Kristin Avery to show how to make thread from sheep wool, silk, and hair from alpaca, camel, Angola rabbit and a dog.
This was how people made cloth, including mummy wrapping and sails, for 10,000 years, she said. While Supley and other students tried spinning the material using their fingers, Cincinnatus teacher Heidi McMahon said the students had studied Native Americans and New York history, so the lesson fit well.
Next to them, Bill Bartlett of the Seven Valley Weaving Guild displayed cloth he had woven.
Over in a different building, Homer students listened as representatives of Main Street Farms in Homer demonstrated how lettuce is grown using aquaponics, a system that pumps water between a fish tank and a bed of stone where the lettuce is grown.
Allan Gandelman of the farm explained what an ecosystem is, what symbiotic relationship means and how the fish and the lettuce benefit each other. He stressed the value of growing food locally, rather than having it shipped from California or other distant locations.
Virgil Elementary School students Mitchell Elston, Brittany Hall, Adrienne Homza and Eden Morgan described what they had learned, as they ate lunch with classmates in the shade.
All four said they had learned safe bike riding habits. Beyond that, Morgan and Elston enjoyed the maple syrup making exhibit by Floyd Parker of Marathon.
Homza said she heard she needs three servings of dairy per day, from Sharpe’s discussion of a Holstein cow and calf. Elston said he learned how to plant vegetation to stop stormwater runoff.

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