By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
About 925 fourth- and fifth-graders from throughout Calaveras County spent a morning learning about agriculture close-up and hands-on at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds.
The seventh annual Ag Awareness Day, held Thursday, gave students a chance to use all their senses as they learned about agricultural pursuits. Students sniffed at the fragrances used to trap destructive insects, ran their fingers over the wool of young lambs, tasted grilled beef as they learned about its nutritional values, watched swine root around in the straw and listened to cowboys talk about herding cattle.
The kids also learned how border collies run along the edge of a herd of cattle, a farrier makes horseshoes and a champion miniature horse pulls his buggy. They learned about forestry, and each youngster got to take home a seedling from Sierra Pacific Industries.
Altaville resident Eloise Fischer coordinated this year's Ag Awareness Day.
"Agriculture is a very important part of the students' lives, but they may not realize that," she said. "So Ag Awareness Day gives them an idea of what it takes to put food on the table."
Farrier Jim Bertrand has been demonstrating his craft at Ag Awareness Day for four years. He shows youngsters how horseshoes are made.
"I enjoy keeping (the craft) alive," he said. "We need more farriers in the county. Maybe the young ones will get interested in this, and then I can take a day off and go fishing."
Twenty different presentations and demonstrations kept the students busy between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Students from Albert Michelson Elementary School in Murphys were impressed by information at the beef booth.
Fourth-grader Michaela Brown said she liked the taste of beef. Haley Heryford, also a Michelson fourth-grader, said she was surprised at how the flesh shrunk when it was cooked.
Aaron Anstead, a fourth-grader from Copperopolis Elementary School, said he also learned a great deal at the beef byproducts booth, where students saw how byproducts are used to make gelatin, tires and other common products.