Washington County fifth-graders get a lesson in farm life

Photo by Michael Kelly Students from Warren Local Schools photograph a cow at the Schramm Farm near Reno on Friday morning.

RENO — Not every child has the advantage of growing up on a farm.

To help out those who don’t, the Schramm Farm gives them a taste of agriculture every year by being the site of field trips for Washington County fifth-graders.

On Thursday and Friday, clusters of students were shuttled from one learning experience to another as the farm put on- with the help of volunteers and a couple of state and local agencies- an agricultural learning extravaganza.

Theresa Schramm, standing in the trench of the milking parlor for the farm’s 200 dairy cows, showed students looming from the milking stations how the equipment is sanitized and connected to the udders, and how the content of the milk is analyzed and displayed on digital screens.

Outside, students used their phones to photograph a goat and a heifer. Nearby, Ohio Wildlife Officer Ryan Donnelly used animal pelts to illustrate the complex relationship between farms and wild animals such as coyotes, foxes, possums and raccoons.

Photo by Michael Kelly Ohio Wildlife Officer Ryan Donnelly holds up a coyote pelt at the Schramm Farm on Friday as he teaches a group of Warren Local Schools students about wildlife and its relation to farming.

In a dark, cavernous shed behind Donnelly’s demonstration tent, students had the chance to touch and handle the internal organs of livestock, some more enthusiastically than others.

Out in the open, Kendrick Schwendeman of the Heritage Co-op in Waterford talked about the biology, life cycle and characteristics of soybeans, while Les Schramm leaned against a piece of farm machinery and explained the basics of crop farming to another group.

Warren Elementary School fifth-grader Jacob Sealey said he felt pretty much at home. His family farms and has six cows, he said.

Sitting next to him during the field trip lunch break was classmate Owen Bookman, who said he was impressed with the math involved in farming.

“I learned how they measure grain,” he said, then added, “The thing I enjoyed most was seeing the cows.”

Photo by Michael Kelly Les Schramm talks to a group of Warren and Frontier school district fifth-graders about crop agriculture Friday at the Schramm Farm near Reno.

Another aspect of animal husbandry caught Mason Hamrick’s attention.

“You can tell how a cow’s feeling by its poop,” he said.

Amanda Rauch, another Warren Elementary student, said she learned how a cornstalk grows, and her classmate Carly Barns said she was surprised at the complexity of the system for handling manure and its uses on the farm.

Carly McHenry said her learning highlight was “really about the crops, and all the machines that process them.”

Katie Marks, educational specialist with the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District, said staging the event involves a complex web of people and arrangements.

Photo by Michael Kelly A line of fifth-grade students from Washington County schools gets a chance to examine internal organs from livestock at the Schramm Farm near Reno on Friday. Farm neighbor Danny Swartz helped by offering sanitary wipes to students as they finished.

“We’ll start thinking about next year as soon as this one is over,” she said. “We solicit donations from businesses, contact volunteers, schedule the trip with teachers.”

The educational content of the trip meshes with what the students are hearing in school, she said.

“We make sure every station coordinates with their curriculum,” she said.

Her colleague Sandy Lahmers, the office administrator and agricultural technician, described the Schramm Farm as a “perfect venue” for teaching children about agriculture.

“Overall, our area might be rural but kids don’t have access to farms like they used to. There are fewer, bigger farms,” she said.

Photo by Michael Kelly Kendrick Schwendeman of the Heritage Cooperative in Waterford explains the biology of soybeans to a group of fifth-grade students from Washington County on Friday.

The farm is owned by Rick and Theresa Schramm.

“The city kids need educating about farms,” Theresa said during a break outside the milking parlor. “Looking at society as a whole, people don’t understand what farms are for, they don’t realize the amount of time, money, blood, sweat and tears that goes into this. But we all have a passion for it. I’ve told my kids, make sure you like what you do.”

Rick Schramm, standing outside a big shed filled with milling, chattering students, said he grew up on the farm, which was owned by his grandfather and his father. He tried working at B.F. Goodrich for three years and came back.

“Working at a plant, you’re always looking at your watch. Start work, take lunch, go home. Here, when I look at my watch, I think, ‘I’ve got time to get that done.’ Everyone works together here.”

The field trips started when Rick was on the county soil and water conservation board, he said.

“They thought it would benefit the community,” he said. “Our goal is that every child should go home with something good to say about farming.”