Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to speak with nearly 300 fourth graders at Mitchell's annual agriculture in the classroom event, held at the Davison County 4-H Grounds. The event had stations to teach students about beef, dairy, pigs, sheep, horses, soil and farm safety. My sister, Kaley, and I were in charge of the beef booth, so we brought in a new baby calf for the kids to see and pet. Of course, we wanted to provide another educational element to the booth, so we set up a table full of beef by-products for the kids to learn about how beef cattle truly enrich their every day lives. Remember my blog post from a few weeks ago? We put the lessons from that post to work, "By-Products Enrich Our Daily Lives (Vegans, Too),"  and shared this message with students who were full of questions about farmers, how they take care of the animals and where their food comes from.
 We met with 12 different fourth grade classrooms, and when speaking to the groups, I had a few important messages that I wanted to get across. First, ranchers care. Second, beef cattle enrich our lives every single day. Third and most important, Kaley and I stressed that from a young age, we learned the tough lesson of the circle of life. Although we loved having new baby calves on the farm, ultimately, we know our cattle will be used as a resource to help improve lives. We told the kids that whether they were riding the bus to school, doing their homework, playing sports or getting ready for bed, beef cattle are always a part of their daily routines. Today, I thought I would offer you the chance to peak inside fourth graders' minds to see what they really think and know about agriculture. I have listed some of the most interesting student questions and comments from yesterday, and I hope they provide some insight as to where our educational messages should focus. Here we go:
In referencing a calf during my speech..."What's a calf?"
When asking the group what a heifer was..."Well, a heifer is tough to explain, but let me try. It's a cross between two animals that can't have babies."
When asking what cattle need to be happy and healthy..."Water, food, shelter, and LOVE." (So true)
When showing them beef by-products like chewing gum and marshmallows..."I'm never going to chew gum again! Yuck!"
When explaining our ear tags and record keeping system..."Does it hurt when they get the tag in their ear?" (I told them it was just like getting their ears pierced.)
When showing an arial photo of our farm and pointing out the barns, the pastures and pens..."Good, I'm glad there are LOTS of pastures. Do you let your cows out there all the time?"
I also received many questions about how long cows live, how many babies they might have, how much they eat and how they are harvested. This experience only reaffirmed my belief that education and conversation with our consumers, whether they are 8 or 80, is critical for our success in the industry. We have got to do more to share our story and teach people about where their food comes from, and all it takes is a minute.
BEEF Daily Quick Fact: Did you know? It takes 3,000 head of cattle to produce enough leather to make enough footballs to supply the entire NFL season!