By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
GREENTOWN — Several students gasped Tuesday when they learned a cow produces enough milk in one year to make the cheese for 1,800 pizzas.
“That’s impressive,” said Eastern Elementary School student Sariya Bonesteel.
Sariya was among the more than 500 Howard County fifth-graders who descended on the county fairgrounds Tuesday for the annual Ag Day event.
High school students who grew up on farms taught the children how a slice of pizza gets from farms and fields to their plates.
They learned how wheat for the crust is grown, how tomatoes are harvested and processed into pizza sauce, where sausage and pepperoni come from and how cheese is made.
Northwestern High School students Allie Dicken and Austin Miller taught the lesson on cheese.
Miller, donning a pizza hat, waved his arms around as he explained where cheese comes from.
Most children guessed cheese starts with the milk from a cow.
Fewer knew what happens to the milk after it leaves the farm.
The children learned about pasteurization and separating curds and whey.
Students looked at a bowl of curds and a bowl of whey. It’s just like Little Miss Muffet ate in the nursery rhyme, Miller said.
He also quizzed the students.
“What color is cheese?” Miller asked.
A few guessed yellow.
Miller told them that it’s actually white. Dyes and cultures are added later to give each cheese its distinct color and flavor.
A few buildings away, Western High School students David Grimme, Sara Schwarzkopf and Chelsey Carter taught kids about rabbits and pigs.
Grimme showed off his 3-month-old crossbred pig. The pig weighs 80 pounds already. By this summer, it will weigh at least 300, Grimme said.
Students petted the pig as it rooted in the ground for food.
Schwarzkopf held a floppy-eared Holland lop rabbit in her arms as Carter gave students a crash course on the animal.
Students learned rabbits live an average of 10 years, and females can have a litter of rabbits every 30 days.
They also found out that male rabbits are too territorial to be kept in the same cage.
“If you put two male rabbits in the same cage, they will fight each other until one of them dies,” Carter said.
Seeing the animals was definitely Sariya’s favorite part, she said.
“They’re so cute, and they’re live,” she said.
Sariya said she’s seen most of the animals before. Her cousin raises hogs, and her friend raises goats.
But many of the fifth-graders had never seen a farm animal before, Dicken said. They know nothing about agriculture.
“It’s sad,” she said. “That’s why we always do this. It’s a fun experience.”
Kelly Scher, who helped organize the event, said she wants students to know how agriculture affects their daily lives.
“Agriculture touches everything they do,” she said.
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