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Pa. fourth-graders focus on farms, fun

September 09, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - It isn't often that Marcus and Chester Martin have 850 visitors in one day to their dairy farm near Mercersburg.

All of the fourth-grade students in Franklin County - about 1,700 children - will visit their farm, Two-Top Holsteins, to attend the Franklin County Farm Bureau's Agriculture Education Institute, a two-day school program that precedes Saturday's Farm Fall Fun Fest.

Thursday morning, local farmer Brad Beidel stood in the pit of the double-10 milking parlor and explained milking procedures. Two hundred and fifty-five cows are milked in the parlor twice a day, beginning at 3:30 a.m., Beidel said.


"It takes three to five minutes for this machine to milk her. Do you think the milk is warm or cold?" he asked.

Most students guessed that it is warm; it is 101 degrees, the cow's body temperature.

When asked how old they thought the cows are, some of the King Street Elementary School students guessed "80 or 100 years old." Most milk cows are between 3 and 7 years old, he said.

At one station, South Hamilton students entered "Through the Moo," a huge cardboard cow, at the cow's mouth. Inside, they learned that a cow has four stomachs. Presenter Liz Brown told them that when a cow chews her cud, she is actually regurgitating food from her second stomach back to her mouth and chewing it again.

Students touched and smelled samples of the feed cows eat, including cornmeal, chicken feathers, bread meal, cottonseed and hay.

"Cows love cottonseed. It's like candy for them," Brown said.

The group exited under the "cow's" tail.

"You guys just became a cow patty," joked their teacher, Shawn Kimple.

Kylee Mitchell, 9, of South Hamilton, said she learned "about the four stomachs in a cow, and the different kinds of feed they eat."

Classmate Eric Allee, 9, on his first visit to a farm, said he learned how much milk a cow produces; "and they need 20 to 50 gallons of water a day."

Veterinary doctor Peter Hess used a model of a cow to demonstrate the problems cows have with hardware. Any non-food item a cow swallows, such as soda cans, broken glass or nails, is hardware. Hess showed students how he puts a magnet down a cow's throat to hold metallic objects in the stomach so they cannot harm the cow's insides. "For aluminum or glass, though, a magnet is no good," he said.

Students and teachers took a hayride through the fields to various stations to learn about integrated pest management, conservation practices, corn production, plant nutrition and recycling.

While Farm Fall Fun Fest is in its 15th year, this is the ninth year for bringing fourth-graders to the farm. Co-chairpersons of the event Ernest and Anna Bert said the information presented complies with academic standards.

"The teachers build lesson plans from the materials presented," Ernest Bert said. "We are raising awareness of what production agriculture faces."

Often, the students enjoy the day so much that they return on Saturday with their families, he added.

"Saturday is usually well-attended even when it rains. We had 700 people in the rain two years ago," he said.

Whitetail Mountain Resort is included in the Fun Fest this year because of its dependence on natural resources and its interest in conserving land and water, and controlling erosion.

If You Go

What: Farm Fall Fun Fest

Where: Farm of Marcus and Chester Martin, 13015 Mount Pleasant Road, Mercersburg, PA 17236. At the traffic light in Mercersburg, turn onto South Park Street, go 11/2 miles to Mount Pleasant Road, make a right, and the farm is about one mile on the right. Signs are posted at each intersection.

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free shuttle buses will take visitors to Whitetail Mountain Resort.

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