SYCAMORE – Sycamore eighth-graders had to learn in some smelly and dirty conditions Thursday.
Whether it was learning about pigs, grain, cows or other agricultural staples, the students had a hands-on experience as they toured three local farms and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau to gain a better understanding of one of the county’s most important industries.
Thursday marked the 12th year the Sycamore school district, local farmers, Sycamore High School FFA and DeKalb County Farm Bureau teamed up to offer eighth-graders a crash course in agriculture, farming and food production.
Teacher Jake Brens, who was on his ninth tour of the farms with students, said the annual trip is an important lesson in appreciating the area’s rich history of agriculture and contribution to not only the community but also the entire country.
“We feel like with each passing year, students have less understanding of how agriculture affects them,” Brens said. “Being in the heart of agriculture country, we want them to have that appreciation.”
The tour included stops at Heisner Dairy Farm near Esmond, the Jones family farm near Clare to learn about grain and beef production, and Old Elm Farms only a few miles from Sycamore Middle School to learn about pork production.
Devin Hanks, a junior at Sycamore High School who works at Old Elm Farms, said it was a great opportunity to teach eighth-graders about agriculture, and he wanted to emphasize the wide variety of opportunities it provides, even as a hobby.
Hanks, who is interested in becoming a firefighter, said he wanted to let the students know they did not have to be a full-time farmer to enjoy agriculture.
“You can sit at a desk behind a computer and be involved in agriculture,” he said. “Once you get involved, it’s a lot of fun.”
At the farm bureau, students were greeted by Sycamore High School FFA members, who set up different stations to explain farming terms and produced a video that showed the benefits and opportunities the high school organization provided.
FFA member Ashley Yunek said she never would have joined the group had it not been for the farm day she experienced as an eighth-grader. Now a junior, she is happy to contribute to the event that sparked her interest.
“Teaching is actually one of the best ways for us to learn more about different areas in agriculture,” she said.
Although the experience inspired some students more than others, even those hesitant to get involved in agriculture enjoyed the day.
“Pretty much everything I learned was new to me,” eighth-grader Austin Mereness said. “It was interesting.”