MANSON - From fish to feathers and hair balls and horns, those were just a few experiences junior high students participated in during a veterinary breakout session March 28 at Manson Northwest Webster Junior/Senior High School's Ag Day.
Terry Seehusen, Farm Bureau regional manager, said the Ag Day, sponsored by Calhoun County Iowa State University Extension and Calhoun County Farm Bureau, rotates each year between the Manson Northwest Webster and South Central Calhoun school districts.
"These children are three to four generations removed from the farm. They have no connections," said Seehusen. "We can't trust social media and what is being said on there and we need to try to make sure our story is being told and at this tender age. That's the objective of Ag Day.
DENIS SCHULTE talks about the dynamics of a watershed during the March 28 Ag Ed Day in Manson.
"Our main focus is to get ahead of the curve with these students."
Seehusen said they are lucky to have MNW and South Central Calhoun sharing in this project.
"They give up an entire day for us," he said.
Seehusen said Ag Day is made up of volunteer presenters.
"Many are Calhoun County-area farmers speaking about their operations and other ag professionals," he said. "They explain to the students just how important agriculture is in the state of Iowa. It's the jobs that employ people, it is our economy, it is our everything."
This year, the students attended 12 different sessions, including ag mechanics, international ag trade, soybean production, water and soil conservation, beef production, precision ag, ag trivia and more.
Dr. Paul Armbrecht, a Lake City veterinarian, provided an overview of his profession and spoke to the students about what they should expect and plan for if they would choose a career as a veterinarian.
He stressed to the students that if they are interested in a veterinary career, they should be prepared to take several years of math, science and chemistry.
"You will have 12 years of math, 12 years of science and 12 years of chemistry," Armbrecht said. "If you are interested in becoming a veterinarian, it is a commitment that starts today."
Compared to a doctor that cares for one species, Armbrecht said a veterinarian cares for hundreds of species.
Many of those, he said, will specialize and become a surgeon that only works on certain animals and possibly certain parts of that animal's body.
Other specialties may include a marine mammal specialist, a small animal veterinarian, or even a veterinarian that cares for military-trained animals.
Lily Milligan, a seventh-grade student at Manson Northwest Webster, said she enjoyed the veterinary medicine program the most.
"I liked the vet because it was cool seeing some of the animals and I learned they have to have a lot of schooling," said Milligan.
Mike Becker, an instructor for the diesel technician program at Iowa Central Community College, in Fort Dodge, offered students a chance to climb into the program's semi tractor. He offered an up close look at their new competitive pulling truck - a highlight of the session.
"Getting into the semi and seeing the inside was my favorite," said Rylee Quade, an eighth-grade student at Manson Northwest Webster.
Becker said the diesel technician program began in 2000 with just six students in the class.
"We currently have 64 enrolled now and we have a 90 percent placement rate after graduation," said Becker.
What is unique to the program, Becker said, is the real world experience the students gain by working on actual projects for customers and not just training aids.
"Our program is a shop-like atmosphere including having the students order parts and write repair orders," said Becker.
All things ag
Other learning opportunities for the students included corn, swine and shrimp production.
Paige Condon, a seventh-grade student, said she learned "a lot" during the shrimp production session.
"I thought that was different," Condon said. "I didn't know people actually raised shrimp."
Overall, Condon said she enjoyed her experiences at the Ag Day.
"I think it's really cool," she said. "I live on a farm and I know a lot of stuff, but it's fun to come and learn more."
Darcy Maulsby, of Lake City, and president of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau, said Ag Day is an opportunity to show the students the diversity of agriculture they may not have the chance to experience otherwise.
"While Iowa's agricultural roots run deep," she said, "it's not uncommon for a majority of students today to have few or no connections to agriculture - even in rural areas."
That's why Calhoun County Farm Bureau board members and other ag professionals in the area volunteer each year to become teachers for a day, she said.
"We were excited to help Manson-Northwest Webster middle school students learn about farming and the diverse array of careers in agriculture," Maulsby said.
"We want to show the students that agriculture today is much more than driving a tractor or doing chores on the farm," she added. "It also involves conservation, entrepreneurship, business management, technology and much more.