“It’s a good thing you guys are doing here” said the bus driver for a third grade class visiting our farm. We have a pen pal class from an Omaha school through the Nebraska Farm Bureau Ag Pen Pal Program. Throughout the year we have been sending letters back and forth learning about one another. The visit to the farm involves all the senses as the students taste, see, hear, smell and touch farm life.
Steve and I have been ag pen pals for many years. This is a great program to connect urban kids with farm families. We have two schools, one in Omaha and one in Newman Grove, we correspond with throughout the year. The students tell us a little bit about themselves, what they like and questions about our farm. The questions over the years have ranged from “Do you ever go to the city?” to “Do the cattle live outside?”. One student from a Lincoln, NE school asked us if we had a CB radio name what would it be. The student thought it was quite funny when Steve replied “T-bone!”.
Most of the students we correspond with have no direct connection to a farm. Through the correspondence we are able to provide answers to their questions and tell the story about how cattle are cared for on our feedlot. We have also provided our current pen pal classes with a picture book to help them see the farm throughout the seasons and what kinds of jobs we do.
The farm visit takes a lot of time to prepare for. We line up small animals for a petting zoo from 4-H families in our area. The students are also served a beef lunch. This year we ordered t-shirts for them to wear. Our “Beef gives you ZIP” slogan is a great reminder of the nutritional benefits of eating beef. Zinc, iron and protein are just a few of ten essential nutrients beef provides!
The comments from the bus driver reassured me about the value of hosting all ages to visit our farm. He mentioned the good memory he had of visiting a farm when he was in grade school. The pen pal program is more than sharing facts and information. The program helps us build relationships between farmers and our urban friends. These students will forever have a special place in our hearts and we hope they will have the same for us.