Calaveras celebrates Ag Day

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

Calaveras County students learned the difference between fact and fiction at the annual Ag Day celebration Thursday at the county fairgrounds in Angels Camp.

An estimated 750 fourth- and fifth-graders from every corner of the county came to take a closer look at the county's largest industry, according to Calaveras County Farm Bureau President Toni Ann Fischer, of Valley Springs.

Dairy operations, forestry, goats, spinning and weaving, walnuts, ponies and tractor and marine safety were among the 25 demonstration stations.

"We want to get them connected with where their food comes, where their clothing comes from," Fischer said. "A lot of them just think it comes from the store. It also is educational for the adults, too, that come down with them, the chaperones."

The half-hour-long mobile dairy unit session proved a big hit.

Kimberlee Youman, of the Dairy Council of California, a state government entity funded by the California dairy industry, brought "Milky Way," a dairy cow from a Galt farm along for her presentation.

Youman dispelled common misconceptions like cows' inability to grow horns like bulls do (they can, but farmers clip them to prevent injuries in a herd) and their possession of four stomachs (it's a single stomach with four chambers).

Students also walked away with fun facts, like the dairy cows' massive appetite, consuming up to 50 pounds of food and 30 gallons of water daily. Their prolific production leads to between 10 and 12 gallons of milk a day.

They also came away with lasting images. Milky Way's ability to clean her nostrils with her tongue drew the greatest applause from a group of Michelson and West Point elementary students.

Children also got an opportunity to learn from one another in the 4-H barns.

"I was really excited to come here and talk to people about why goats can get sick when they're babies," said first-year Tri-Dam 4-H Club member Morgan Danfelt, 13, of Valley Springs. "It's interesting to see how the kids like to feed the goats and what their reactions are."

"And to see them see what it looks like inside their stomachs," added her Tri-Dam clubmate, Kyra Allemand, 12.

"He's cute," said Zach Guillemin, 11, from Rail Road Flat Elementary School, petting a year-old pygmy goat, and eagerly sharing his newfound knowledge. "That's how big they stay."

The young teachers also got some help from their peers.

"I brought him hear unnamed," said Dezjani Belt, 11, of San Andreas 4-H, holding a 6-month-old Jersey Giant rooster. "I asked everyone what his name should be and a kid named him for me."

The apropos moniker? Goliath.

He's about knee-high to Belt now but the youngster said he will eventually grow to about mid-thigh.

Elorah Nunn, 14, of the Mountain Ranch 4-H Club, showed how "Merrylegs," her silkie bantam hen, hides a lot of blue beneath her feathery white exterior.

"She's got turquoise in her earlobes" and blue flesh and beak, Nunn said.

Logging truck demonstrators knew timber isn't often the first product to come to mind when people think of agriculture.

"A lot of people are going to think farming," said Amy Gladen, of Sonora, who drivesa truck for her family's logging company, Woodland Expansion.

"They're a product that grows out of the ground. It's something that we produce here in the county," said Kathy Mewhinney, a truck driver based in Sonora for Sierra Pacific Industries. "It's definitely agriculture but a lot of people don't realize that."

The Union Democrat
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