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Festival tells 'real story of agriculture'

September 09, 1999

Fun FestBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: DON AINES




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Through a blue haze, the chapel steeple of Mercersburg Academy jutted above a distant tree line to the east of Ron and Judy Hissong's Mercer-Vu Farms.

What is normally a tranquil country scene was enlivened Thursday by the cacophony of 800 fourth-graders from around Franklin County. They got a sneak preview of the Ninth Annual Franklin Fall Farm Fun Fest being hosted by the Hissongs.

Another 800 or so fourth-graders will wander the Peters Township farm today, and the public is invited to do the same Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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"I learned about what cows eat and how they process milk," said Larry Thomas, a student at Fayetteville Elementary. "Good cows process about nine gallons of milk a day and very good cows process 12 or 13," he said.

"I learned cows eat cotton and chocolate," said Brittany Hock, who attends the same school. The byproducts from cottonseed and chocolate processing are proteins used to supplement livestock feed.

"How many stomachs do you think a cow has?" veterinarian Todd Moores asked a group of students.

"Three" said one. "Four," said another, giving the correct answer. Moores, of Franklin Veterinary Associates in Greencastle, Pa., told them a cow eats enough every day to fill the 50-gallon drum sitting next to an outbuilding.

Moores showed how he diagnoses and doses cows, including pills the size of D-cell batteries. He also displayed magnets that are fed to cows to pick up stray pieces of metal they eat while grazing. The metal attaches to the magnet and then passes through the cow's digestive system.

"I learned a lot of cool stuff from the doctor," said Shaun Wright of Grandview Elementary. "I already know how to milk cows. I live on a farmette."

"The consumer today is too far removed from where production agriculture is," said Anna Swailes, who co-chairs the Promotion and Education Committee of the Franklin County Farm Bureau with her husband, Bill. She said the bureau sponsors the event "to tell the real story of agriculture."

Even in rural Franklin County, most people, especially children, don't know much about how food gets from the farm to the table, Swailes said.

Under a shade tree in front of his house, Ron Hissong talked about farming the way some men talk about baseball. He spoke of his new freestall barn and other improvements on the 400 acres he owns and 300 more he rents.

His sons, Rick and Rod, both Penn State graduates, are the third generation to work this land. "Next spring will be 50 years since my parents bought this farm," he said.

Saturday visitors can see how a dairy farm operates, hand-milk a cow, take wagon rides and join bus tours to the Bison Ridge Buffalo Ranch near Mercersburg.

David and Danielle Fox began raising bison in 1996. They market meat from their herd to area restaurants and grocery stores.

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