LOUDONVILLE, Ohio — The little black-and-white Holstein calves looked so cute to third-grader Vassiliya Draganova, that she decided to name one.
“Bella,” she called it, which means “beautiful” in Italian.
“They’re wee little and they like to lick your thumb,” she told some of her classmates — all third graders in Regina Herrick’s class from St. Edward School of Ashland.
The class was one of many from across Ashland County to participate in the annual third-grade farm tour, held Oct. 1-2 at Clair-Lyn Holsteins farm near Loudonville.
Volunteers from area farm businesses helped guide students through a series of workshops pertaining to farm safety, calf development, cow care, milking, food production and the importance of agriculture in everyday life.
John Fitzpatrick, organizational director for the Farm Bureau in Ashland, Wayne and Medina counties, asked students what they wanted to be when they grow up.
Hands shot up instantly and to his surprise, many said they wanted to farm. Others wanted to be teachers, store workers and third-grader Katie Helenthal said she wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
All those occupations will be dependent on strong farm production, Fitzpatrick told the students. He explained the evolution of modern farm practices, including custom harvesting and challenged them to describe the parts of a corn stalk.
Inside a freestall barn, farm nutritionist Andy Kniesly showed students a realistic model of a cow’s stomach, explaining how the four compartments work together to aid digestion.
“Do cows drink milk?” Herrick asked, challenging her students.
They do when they’re calves, Kniesly said, and when they grow into a cow, they become milk producers. And produce they do — an average of about 9 gallons per cow, per day, he said.
Cows need a lot of feed and water, he told the children, between 25 and 55 gallons of water per cow a day. That’s about a bathtub full, he said.
Inside the milking parlor, there was some confusion among students as to what the cows thought of being milked. One girl thought they disliked it, because they sometimes kick.
“Most cows actually like getting milked,” said local dairy farmer Christy Hulse. In fact, cows can sense when it’s time to be milked and are usually eager about it, “just like you (students) know in your head when it’s recess time,” she said.
After it leaves the cow, the milk goes to a large milk tank, or a “giant refrigerator,” as Hulse put it.
Hulse told students dairy farming is an all-day, every day commitment, even on Christmas day. But Clair Oberholtzer, who owns the family farm, said he tries to keep the holidays special and schedules around them the best he can.
Glad to host. He said it’s good for young children to visit farms like his, so they learn to appreciate how they work.
“I hope the kids got some kind of an idea where there food comes from, rather than just the grocery store,” he said. “And hopefully they had fun seeing the animals as well.”
Clair and his wife, Linda, milk about 60 head of Holsteins and farm about 55 acres of hay. Their seven sons also help, with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old just learning.
The farm was also featured on the annual Ashland County farm tour, which was held Oct. 3-4.
Although most stations showed kids what they could do on a farm, one showed them what “not” to do. Conrad Amstutz, of Sterling Farm Equipment, operated a generator powered by a power-take-off system, and showed them how fast a pair of blue jeans can become entangled if caught.
“Watch how quick this happens,” he said before turning on the generator.
“What would you be doing right now?” he asked.
“Screaming,” a student answered.
Amstutz said the “number one thing for third-graders is to just stay away” from dangerous equipment. But if they do have an accident, they need to know how to call for help and describe their location, he said.
Kathy Davis, who organized the tour along with Ashland County Farm Bureau, figured more than 300 students would visit the farm over the two days. Those who came and those unable to come were given information packets and posters to put on their home refrigerator.
Although the tour only lasted about two hours, Herrick said her students will incorporate some of what they learned into classroom discussion.
“They covered a lot of our objectives,” she said, including economics and the sciences.