Steve Ranson
Ag in the Classroom gave E.C. Best Elementary School students an opportunity to see how many people in Churchill County make their living from the ground. The Thursday exhibition also featured the World of Corn, which has been part of the program for 20 years.

Students at E.C. Best Elementary School received a lesson in agriculture and science as part of their hands-on learning outside the four walls.

Ag in the Classroom is a program that shows the county’s elementary students how agriculture evolves as a big part of their lives. The program visits each elementary school every other year and offers 15 stations for students to visit. Most students stopped at nine stations, though, in their allotted time.

“It’s important for children to see people in our community make a living with what they’re showing and discussing,” said Principal Keith Boone.

Since agriculture is a vital industry in Churchill County, Boone said students gain a better appreciation of what is produced here.

“We have a good percentage of kids whose families are involved with agriculture and have a real sense of pride to show their peers,” Boone added. “Our kids are interested and ask good questions. The part I love is the community aspect of these people who come into our community and teach students something about our valley.”

During the day-long demonstrations, students learned more about the growing of alfalfa hay, the Newlands water project, animals, grains, the dairy industry and safety.

Dairyman Eric Olsen said there is a huge disconnect between those who live in Fallon and those who reside and work in the county.

“Some of the kids who live here don’t have an idea of some of the things done here,” Olsen said, as he watched his daughter Allysen, a member of the high school FFA chapter, explain cows and feed to one group.

“We’re teaching them how food is made and where it comes from.”

With the construction of the new dry milk facility nearing completion later this year,Olsen said Churchill County will progress from a hub to a major hub for agriculture.

“We’re already a hub with two livestock yards, and a lot of people buy and sell hay and bring it into this area,” Olsen pointed out. “As a dairymen, we’re excited for the future, and my daughter wants a career in the dairy.”

Sonja Johnson has been the driving force behind Ag in the Classroom. For the past half century, Johnson has been affiliated in one way or another with both the Nevada and Churchill County farm bureaus. Since the early 1970s Johnson has ensured elementary students have the opportunity to learn about agriculture and how it is the backbone of the country’s economy.

“Less then 2 percent of people have any involvement with agriculture,” she said, walking around the various stations. “We want to let the students know where food and clothing comes from.”

Teacher Marla Wood, who grew up in the county, said agriculture is what the area represents and how the county originated more than 100 years ago.

“Our students need to know about crops and animals,” she added. “Many students and their families have moved here from out of area, and they have never been introduced to the ag experience.

Johnson interjected, adding that students are amazed when they see the farm animals in person and discover that cows, for example, are much larger than what pictures show.

Samantha Frost, a 10-year-old student, has lived in Churchill County all her life.

“It’s pretty interesting,” she said of the exhibits. “When it’s Ag in the Classroom, you learn a lot more.”