How you gonna keep 'em happy in class once they've been down on the farm?
For 14 students of the Realms of Inquiry School, several days on a dairy farm near Huntsville was a different experience and one they'll talk about for a while.Right off the bat, some of the city kids found themselves knee deep in animal stalls, but they stuck right in there and cleaned 74 of them, along with pitching in on several other farm chores that have no corollary in the usual lives of the city youngsters.
The students of Norm Hassett camped out in a Weber County campground between treks to the Bailey Brothers Dairy Farm. Two parents, Bruce Hardy and Dale Copley, also participated in the field trip.
"It was an unusual experience," said Bethany Driscoll. "Much funner than a museum, and we were able to contribute to the work of the farm."
That included helping milk the dairy's 175 cows - although milking machines do most of the work on this modern operation. There still is a need for hands to hose down the animals and to strip the last dribbles of milk after the machines have done their thing.
The students even learned something about cow psychology. Big producers get extra food as a reward. And the animals have their own personalities, Lori Copley found. "One was really rowdy. One of the farm workers had to milk it."
They came to understand a bit about the economics of the farm. The loss of an animal that bloated and died was a $2,000 economic hit for the dairy. A calf also froze, representing a $100 immediate loss and the lost potential for another member of the productive herd.
The Realms of Inquiry visitors found a farm is never boring. Some of them found an old motorcycle and tried to get it working but never did. They went on a hayride for a taste of good old mountain entertainment and also visited the monastery near Huntsville. They rode on tractors hauling manure to fields and climbed haystacks - the dairy farm version of an entertainment park.
Sam Cude found digging broken posts out of the ground to make way for new posts was tough work.
It was, said Jennifer Buchanan, "a way to learn responsibility. An opportunity to work." Others agreed, with the caveat that it didn't always smell wonderful.
Who benefited the most?
"The farmer's kids," Bethany concluded. "They got all their work done by us."