On one special school day this fall, multitudes of Whatcom County third-graders will participate in a field trip treat.
Whatcom Farm Circle, a three-year-old committee of citizens devoted to local agriculture, will hold a three-day educational event for third-graders Nov. 19-21 at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds. Each class of students will spend two hours on one of those days immersed in learning about agriculture at the Haggen Expo Building.
Jewel TerWisscha, administrative assistant for Whatcom Family Farmers, said 823 third-graders from 15 schools attended last year’s event, which was the third in an annual series.
That’s the equivalent of 35 to 40 classes, meaning a huge county cohort of mostly 8-year-olds attends.
Julie Milstead, an FFA advisor at Lynden High, loves what she has seen.
“That’s a really good age for kids to learn about farming,” Milstead says. “They’re old enough to understand what we’re explaining but young enough to get excited about it.”
TerWisscha says all county third-graders are welcome to attend the free event, but they must come with a registered group, usually on buses with their school class. There is still room for a few more classes, TerWisscha said. The deadline for registration is now Oct. 4.
Parents of interested third-graders who are not part of a participating class can contact her for procedural information at 360-306-6246.
“We’d love to see as many third-graders as possible,” she says, noting the event is limited to students in that grade.
Milstead says it’s especially important for children without a farm background to attend.
“It’s very important for kids to understand where their food comes from and how it’s produced,” she says. … “I’ve always been very passionate about consumer education. Most farmers come from generations of families.
“City kids can really benefit,” Milstead says. “I’ve found people in Bellingham are very supportive of local agriculture.”
TerWisscha says the event begins with big eyes when students enter the building.
“My favorite thing is when the students see the massive corn harvester and potato harvester tractors,” she says. “Most of these kids have never seen anything like these machines. I love to hear the oohs and aahs.”
Sponsors include Whatcom Family Farmers. Washington State University Extension, Whatcom Conservation District and Washington Ag in the Classroom.
TerWisscha lists the following stations where third-graders will learn:
▪ How various fruits and vegetables are grown, harvested and processed in Whatcom County.
▪ How materials cycle through the food chain from photosynthesis to composition.
▪ How dairy cows turn grass into milk, following the steps from pasture to grocery store (no animals will be present).
▪ How Whatcom County farms provide homes not only to people and farm animals, but to wild animals, birds and fish.
▪ How Whatcom County farms help to keep water, soil and air clean for everyone’s benefit.
▪ How Whatcom County foods contribute to nutrition, with take-home packaged samples of local foods.
▪ To provide a chance to meet real Whatcom farm families and learn about what they do in a hands-on setting.
▪ To provide an overview of local food production, targeting age-appropriate life science/environmental science curriculum.
▪ To provide an overview of the importance of farmland to our county, our local environment and the health of the planet.
▪ To provide samples of healthy, locally produced food and nutritional information.