For the 27th year, local students got an up-close look at agriculture, provided by farmers in the area.

Ag in the Classroom has brought these visits to Hartley Elementary School, TEAM Academy and Sacred Heart School for close to three decades.

The purpose, said coordinator Vicky Singlestad, is “to have the third-graders connect how farmers grow the food that they buy in the grocery store.”

Farmers presenting April 6 included Brian Sommers discussing dairy, Leon Schoenrock on corn and soybeans, Chris Sethun talking about pigs, and Steve Scheffert, Mary Krueger and Gary and Tina Schoenfeld presenting on sheep.

“I am very appreciative of the farmers’ willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to talk to the students about their farms,” Singlestad said.

Singlestad held students’ attention with a discussion about her hog barn, talking about how much pigs weigh when they’re born and when they go to market. She expanded on how the hog operation works — how the barns have heaters and air conditioning and what the hogs’ diets consist of so they can grow. She also connected the operation to products kids may have seen in their local grocery store.

A special attraction that always gets kids excited is the chance to go outside to see a calf. Students braved the cold to line up and pet the calf who was sitting in the back of a truck in the Hartley parking lot.

The day has become a tradition for the schools, as every year a new group of kids gets to take some time to learn about a key aspects of agriculture in the county.

The Ag in the Classroom visits started 25 years ago when Waseca farmers Vicky and Scott Singlestad brought baby piglets to the school and talked to students about their hog operation. It wasn’t long before the event grew to include other area farmers who educate students about various aspects of agriculture in which they are involved, giving kids the chance to learn about pigs, lambs, dairy, corn and soybeans.

“When I first started (Ag in the Classroom), I would ask a group of 30 kids how many of them lived on a farm, and probably two or three would raise their hands,” Singlestad said, discussing the visits in 2016 when she received the Distinguished Agricultural Leadership Award for her dedication to the advancement of agriculture in the area.

“Our goal is to educate them on where their food comes from, that it’s not just at the grocery store, but there’s a process where the farmers have to raise the food that they buy in their grocery store,” she said.

Reporter Jacob Stark can be reached at 837-5451 or follow him on Twitter @WCNjacob.

Covering Waseca, Janesville, and New Richland.

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