In almost every county in Ohio, soil and water conservation districts sponsor some kind of a day for schoolchildren to learn more about their surroundings.
In Noble County, we are blessed to have a facility that is as near to being a perfect place for such an event as you can imagine. The Eastern Ag Research Station, near Belle Valley, has been used for a lot of events over the last 45 years. And it’s not that the folks who run it don’t have anything else to do, but they have let us use the whole place for two days each spring for the last 11 years.
We started our ‘AgSchool Days’ in the spring of 2000 with third grade students from two schools, but knew we could handle more kids.
For the past several years, we have had students from six schools and four different school districts in Noble and Guernsey counties. Last year’s attendance was our most ever — 402.
Our goal has always been to help children learn about where their food and other things they use, comes from, and to that end, we are often surprised at what third graders know, or don’t know.
We are a rural area, for the most part, but by now many of these students are at least two generations removed from any family member involved in agriculture. They may live near a farm, or pass farms on the way to school every day, but what they know about farming or the environment is very limited.
We consider ourselves to be very fortunate in a lot of ways, as we prepare for this each spring, because we have some very devoted folks help us.
The staff at EARS goes out of their way to help get things ready and the whole place looks picture perfect. We couldn’t have much of a day at all if it weren’t for the OSU Extension offices from Noble and Guernsey counties, as well as folks from neighboring SWCD offices helping by doing some of the presentations.
Other help comes from ODNR Division of Wildlife and Division of Forestry, local Electric Cooperatives, and WHIZ-TV station from Zanesville.
We’re also fortunate to have a group of local businesses that support us through donations that enable us to put on this field day each spring, and send every student home with a T-shirt and some other items.
But the best part is always the students. Watching them learn about electrical safety or wildlife or forestry or soils is rewarding, but watching them as they hold a day-old lamb or baby chick for the first time is priceless.
Seeing them look for crawdads or salamanders in the stream, or go fishing for the first time in their lives, or take a ride in the back of a pick-up or on a hay wagon are things that we kinda take for granted, but they remember for years to come.
No matter how much planning we do for this, there are always things that we can’t control, and the biggest thing is the weather, even with a TV weatherman on-site. We have had days in early May that were as perfect as anyone could ever ask for, and most years it’s pretty good. But there have been a couple times when it rained for most of the day and basically made for a miserable day for everyone except the kids — they really don’t care, they just have too much fun.
After 10 years and well over 3,000 kids attending our AgSchool Days, we’ve decided to try something new this year. On the Sunday after we have our day for the schools, we are going to duplicate the whole thing for the general public.
On May 15, from noon until 5 p.m., anybody who wants to learn about modern agriculture, where their food comes from, how to catch crawdads, or just take a tour of this wonderful farm is welcome to spend the day with us at the Eastern Agricultural Research Station.
Food will be available before noon, with presentations beginning around 12:30.
So, if you’re looking for a way to spend a nice spring day with family and friends, come on out to Belle Valley and come “Back to the Farm.”