Tag: Cattle

Member Q&A: Keith Nantz of Dillon Land and Cattle Co.

Photo May 08, 11 07 29 AM-001

1) How did you get involved with the Adopt a Farmer program?

I got involved with the Adopt a Farmer program during the 2013-2014 school year. It actually started through the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and other groups that partnered together for the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” assembly at Yamhill-Carlton Middle School last year. I was one of the speakers, and one thing led to another and I had the school out for a field trip. It was really fun to be involved with.

2) What was your first impression of the program and how has that evolved?

The biggest thing I got out of it was the ability to tie into what they were learning in school and apply that to real life. I’m an avid reader, but applying it to real life is big. Being able to tie agriculture to economics and the business side is important. . I’ve talked about cows, nutrition and diet with my current class, and that led back to math and biology. It was perfect, you could really see the proverbial light bulb go off.

3) Who have you been paired with and what has it been like?

I was paired with Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School in Yamhill last year, and this year I was paired with Harvey Scott School in Northeast Portland. Coming to a ranch was different than what they’d seen. There’s a disconnect from the east side of the state to the west. For those in an urban environment, to come to where the closest neighbor is a mile away, that’s pretty daunting for them. Their demographic is very, very urban and most haven’t been out of the city before so that’s been a big change. Also they have no basis (for agriculture), whereas some at Yamhill-Carlton did. Yamhill-Carlton is closer to ag even though they’re still relatively urban. My Northeast Portland class has asked lots of questions, and I’ve been involved with them in a different way. It’s fun to have that interaction.

4) When did you know you wanted to keep participating?

There was an ‘aha’ moment on the field trip last year. I was talking to the kids about the cow in the chute, and talking about its nutrition and diet, and one kid says ‘we’ve been talking about that in my math and biology class.’ That intrigued me so much, you could see them putting the puzzle pieces together. That’s when I saw it was making an impact.

5) How has your second year been different than your first year?

It’s a different audience. With Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School, some had exposure to agriculture and some didn’t. This year’s class, Harvey Scott School, they are very, very removed from it and questions from them are quite a bit different than ones from Yamhill-Carlton. It’s also been more one-on-one with this teacher. Carlos brings a lot of excitement to the program, and that’s been a lot of fun for me as well. He seems to be more engaged and it’s been a very fun process.

6) How important is it to educate others about Oregon agriculture and how has this program helped?

The education piece is pivotal, I think that’s the one piece we’re lacking in this industry. Especially with this age group, because they’re vulnerable and open to ideas. It’s absolutely vital to show where our food comes from, and that as agriculturists we’re the first environmentalists. If we don’t sustain our land, we go out of business. Telling our story is the education piece and, since we’re busy 24/7 and 365 days a year, this program opens that door. It’s a forum to allow that process to happen, instead of someone like me having to design and put it together. It’s a platform we have built and continue to grow, and that is absolutely incredible and very crucial from the producer side, and it’s very, very important.

7) Where have you seen the most growth in attitudes and impressions of Oregon agriculture?

With Oregon cattlemen’s associations. Cattle are now the number one agricultural impact, and there are a lot of gaps. We need to educate the public, we need to be involved more and by doing that it has been very rewarding. With programs like the Adopt a Farmer program, we have started to see more forward progress.

8) What has been the most rewarding aspect of participating in this program?

I think sharing information with the kids has been the most rewarding. Listening to the kids and forming an answer they’ll understand has been very challenging but very fun. I enjoy the one-on-one conversations and opening their eyes to a whole different world.

9) What impact do you hope these relationships will have on the future?

The biggest impact I’d like to see is on the political side. For our society to see how important agriculture is, so that they’ll dig deeper and help us produce more quality food for our society.

One of the biggest things is the education piece. Ag is very labor intensive and we don’t have a lot of time, so then we find ourselves battling politicians who are making laws who don’t understand the importance of what we do and how we do it. Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now when kids become voters, hopefully they’ll understand how important agriculture is and how they can continue to have cheap food that’s sustainable across the board. Most are four, five, and six generations removed, and don’t understand the basis of that reality. It’s not an overnight thing, but it can happen in the long run.

10) Would you recommend this program? Why?

I absolutely recommend this to all Ag producers from all commodities. With the generational gap and the importance of education, there’s a huge gap between where food comes from and how it’s raised. It’s about being transparent and showing the world we’re doing things right. This program gives us a platform to share our story that isn’t always available. It’s very important to jump in and be involved.

 

Growing Oregon’s Future with JD Ranch

By Heather Burson

The Adopt a Farmer program has made a name for itself connecting middle school science students with where their food and fiber comes from. This is accomplished in a variety of ways that all stem from two connection points. Field trips to the farm and farm visits to the classroom. Together, these connections build the most important connection of all, the one between farmer or rancher and student. It’s a connection that begins on the field trip, blossoms in the classroom and extends from there. An experience that Jeff Kuhn, of JD Ranch, and his niece Stacey Kuhn have been proud to witness as participants this year.

“Just the knowledge of our industry has grown, and their curiosity of the industry has grown, and they’ve latched onto it and they really like it,” says Jeff, “they’re pulling it all together from the field trip to the classroom, they’re figuring it out.”

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Last fall Jeff and Stacey hosted 206 sixth grade students, from Diana Collins’ class at Robert Gray Middle School, to their 2,000 acre ranch on nearby Sauvie Island. Students were able to get the lay of the land, check out some of the equipment and see how JD Ranch produces a variety of crops. Among these were cattle, JD Ranch has a little over 100 head that are part of a cow/calf operation, and chipping potatoes used to create Tim’s Cascade and Kettle Brand potato chips. The group also included adults, helping the program’s message spread further. “On the field trip we had a bunch of adults, chaperones, and they were more blown away than the kids were,” says Jeff. Diana agrees, adding that “They were mesmerized by what the students were learning.” Fast forward to February and it was time for their first classroom visit.

Jeff and Stacey were met with recognition and enthusiasm, as students recalled the field trip and asked lots of questions about the ranch. “That was very rewarding for me, that they remember coming out to the farm and then recognized me and had questions for me,” says Jeff. Students remembered several things from their day there, the cattle, potatoes, potato chips, the shed where potatoes are stored, the sprayer and more. Potatoes were one of the things that made the biggest impression, especially for those who took one home. One student shared that he “took a potato home, named it Fred and ate it raw.” Another student was excited that she took one home and made French fries. Their awareness had grown, and this was even more evident in the questions they asked.

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Simple questions, such as how many acres JD Ranch grows on, led to more critical questions like “if it’s a cow farm, why are there potatoes too” and “are potatoes GMO?” Students learned that it’s important to diversify, that there are few true GMO crops, and that methods like crossing and breeding are also used to create different kinds of things. Their questions also led to other kinds of links, like the one between farm and consumer. One of Stacey’s favorite moments was from a girl who just learned that JD Ranch’s potatoes are graded on color. Only a little green, caused by sunburn, or black, caused by bruising or a bug, is allowed. In fact, Tim’s Cascade only allows JD Ranch five percent green within a quarter million pounds of potatoes a day. Upon hearing this, the girl said that must be why there are green chips and some consumers may see those and think ‘I don’t want to buy from that company again.’ A response that impressed Stacey. “She made that connection and that was really neat,” Stacey says.

Next, Stacey linked back to the classroom and their recent studies of evolution. A soil science major in college, she was excited to share her knowledge of what soil is made of and how soil evolves. “I’m really passionate about it, I get really excited about it,” says Stacey. Students learned about the soil’s different components, gravel, sand, silt, clay and organic matter, and how to observe these layers in the soil around them. Gravel feels coarse, sand feels gritty, silt feels like flour, and clay feels sticky. They also learned one of Stacey’s favorite facts that a past professor of hers imparted, that one cubic inch of soil contains over a billion living things. “You’re stepping on that every day, think about that!” Stacey says.

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She also talked about the Missoula flood, comparing its size to the Seattle Space Needle, and its deposits of soil throughout Oregon and the Willamette Valley. Students learned that 200 feet of fertile top soil, from Montana, Washington and Idaho, was deposited in Oregon, with sand, silt and clay deposited from Portland to Eugene. The flood’s effects, the Washington state scablands and erratic rock deposits, impressed students. One boy asked how scientists knew one of the rocks was from Canada, and learned that its composition was different than the soil around it. This got him thinking about how other geographic features were formed, such as the Grand Canyon.

These are the types of connections that happen every day in an Adopt a Farmer classroom, and they’ll continue to happen in this one. Something Diana is excited about as they move forward. “I was really delighted with how much expertise Farmer Jeff and Stacey brought to our classroom, she says, “they totally went above and beyond my expectations.” Two more classroom visits will follow and perhaps another field trip. All of them, opportunities to grow Oregon’s future as one that’s more harmonious with agriculture. “I hope they have more of an open mind about Oregon agriculture in general. With all of these bills being proposed…I hope they think about how it will affect farmers, I hope they understand it more, and I hope they want to be a part of it,” says Stacey. In turn, she looks forward to learning more about her students and “what issues are important to them now, because they’ll be the ones driving the market.” Adds Diana, “I really hope that they are proud of where they come from and know that their local farmers work very hard and we need to support them and trust and believe in the work they do.”

 

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