Milking an artificial cow, petting a live sheep and watching a straw dummy get wrapped around a power take off shaft are just a few of the activities Pratt County fourth and fifth graders witnessed Tuesday and Wednesday at Kids Day on the Farm.
David and Jesse Blasi host the annual event at the farm located a mile and a half north and one mile west of Pratt.
Fourth graders from across the county and Cunningham are invited to come and learn about the many facets of farming and enjoy a grilled burger for lunch. The fifth graders were also invited this year because the last Kids Day was cancelled three times because of weather.
Classes are divided into small groups and moved from one location to another around the farm to each station. A pickup horn signaled the end of each session. Students either stood or sat on hay bales to watch and participate in each activity.
Various businesses provided presenters and gave information about a variety of farm topics. Students were encouraged to ask questions at each station.
Farm owner David Blasi used some real cows and calves as a visual aid as he talked about how to raise and take care of cattle. He said it was very expensive to feed cattle especially during the last two years of drought.
Between sessions, Blasi said he enjoyed sharing his farm with the students but noticed that over the years fewer and fewer students had any direct connection to the farm. When he first started the event, almost every student either lived on a farm or had a relative like an uncle or grandfather that had a farm.
Now almost none of the students have any direct association with a farm.
"We have totally lost that connection," Blasi said.
Chris Drake of Farm Bureau presented a farm safety video that focused on farm equipment and livestock. He had a toy grain cart with a small toy doll inside to represent a child and showed the students how quickly the child disappeared when the soybeans in the cart were emptied.
He then led the students to a live demonstration of the dangers of a PTO shaft featuring a hay-stuffed dummy getting wrapped up in the shaft. The students were impressed with the speed the dummy was twisted.
Galen Banks of Kincheloe's Inc. led a safety discussion on ATVs using a real ATV and having students read the safety stickers on the vehicle. He also talked about safe operation and the use of a helmet.
Representing Crop Quest, Paul Stamy showed the various products made from the most common crops in the county: wheat, corn, milo, soybeans and cotton.
He also displayed a remote controlled airplane Crop Quest uses to photograph fields from the air to track insect and weed problems, water patterns and areas in need of spraying.
Veterinarian Brian Spitzer of Hi-Plains Veterinary Services talked about taking care of animals and helped students pet a live sheep.
One of the more dramatic demonstrations was electrical dangers presented by Robert Lamatsch, lineman for Ninnescah Electric. Using a miniature set of power poles, some wire, a battery, a transformer and some farm toys, he showed how electricity passes through machinery and people.
The display featured an actual visible electrical current going to the ground plate on the display. Lamatsch also told the children to stay inside a vehicle if a power line fell on it but if the vehicle caught fire and they had to leave to jump from the vehicle to the ground instead of stepping off because that would create a path for the electricity and injure the person.
Another very popular display was the National Resources Conservation Service water erosion demonstration. Brad Swisher, NRCS conservation technician, narrated the display that featured water running through a landscape (recycled plastic) that formed a meandering riverbed with vehicles, animals and buildings along the banks.
Gradually the water ate away at the bank, eventually causing it to collapse and sending vehicles and animals into the water much to the delight of the students who eagerly guessed what would fall into the water next.
Swisher also demonstrated how putting dead trees or logs along the riverbank would help stop the erosion.
Kyle Banks of the Kanza Co-op shared the use of technology and how it was used on equipment like tractors and combines to save fuel and time by keeping the equipment moving in a precise direction.
He also shared how technology could make irrigating crops more efficient and demonstrated how to measure the amount of moisture in seeds.
Farmer Dwane DeWeese took students to a line of farm equipment and explained how each piece was used. He shared how soybean plants worked and made soybeans.
One of the most popular activities was getting to milk an artificial cow. After Anita DeWeese gave information about dairy cattle using a live cow as a visual aid, the students lined up to try their hand at milking an artificial cow.
Brett Detwiler said it was a lot of fun and Fernando Fernandez said he enjoyed it.