COEUR d’ALENE — More than 1,100 fifth-graders will never see their groceries the same way after their hands-on, Farm to Table experiences at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds this week.
"I learned that plastic is made out of cow, and marshmallows are made out of cow,” Greensferry Elementary student Lillynn Hartley said Wednesday. “And erasers are made out of cow, too. Oh, and gum.”
How did she feel about learning this new information?
"Grossed out. I do know that," she said with a grin.
Gross, interesting, weird, wild and wonderful are all things the students are learning at the fifth annual Farm to Table, a two-day event that brings kids into the world of agriculture to get a better understanding of where food comes from.
"Everybody needs to know where their food comes from and how important that is," said Farm to Table co-organizer Linda Rider. "That’s a piece of education that’s lacking in our society. That’s the main principle in all of this."
Students spent Wednesday and more students will be going today to learn about a variety of agriculture and farming practices and processes, including dairy, beef, goats, pigs, pollinators, water, wheat and soil.
Why should kids care about soil?
"It is essential for everything in life,” said Aubrey Hoxie, a local district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It grows our food, it supports our homes, it helps provide oxygen for us. It’s essential for everything."
Hoxie has presented at every Farm to Table, and she loves when she sees kids have those "aha!" moments.
"We talk about, ‘How long does it take to grow an inch of soil, or a soil inch to form?’ and it takes at least about 100 years," she said. It's great "to see their eyes light up like, ‘Woah, that’s not very much for such a long time.’"
Rider said she thinks it's really cool when kids learn something new and share that information with their families.
"If they can learn that and maybe go home and even share it, then we have gained," she said.
Greensferry fifth-grade teacher Danielle Kisler said the experience was great for her students.
"The kids are able to see that the math and the science and other things come together to show how we get our food and how we grow our crops," she said. “Some of them don’t really know where the food comes from; they have no idea about animal products, so it’s a really good learning experience."
Atlas fifth-grader Jolie Spindler summed it up this way: "We learned how wheat is made, how corn is made. We’re really smart now."