Binger Ranch tour highlights
role of agriculture for fourth graders
Rodriques uses his hawk "Drumstick" to educate the youngsters on the
value of conservation at the Binger Ranch Education Days . (B.L. Azure
IRVINE FLATS — Things sure have changed
McDonald had the farm. Predominantly the knowledge of what happens on a
farm or ranch has wilted on the vine. Also Ol’ McDonald has sold the
farm because the young McDonalds didn’t want to work on it. But the
farm and ranch is still there and so is its purpose.
A couple of generations ago most people in Montana
knew a lot about farming and ranching and things like where their foods
came from. Many grew up on farms and ranches or knew someone who did.
Not any more.
Reservation Extension Agent Rene Kittle shows how deep the route system
of some noxious weeds can penetrate the earth. (B.L. Azure photo)
So the annual Fourth Grade Ranch Education
has attempted to chink the gap of farm and ranch knowledge. Last week
was the 18th annual Ranch Education Days held at the Mac Binger
(formally Vermedahl) Ranch on Irvine Flats on the bench overlooking the
Flathead River. The event draws fourth graders from elementary schools
in Ronan, Polson and Pablo.
Montana State University/Lake County Extension
Agent Jack Stivers said the Ranch Education Days is an opportunity to
expose children to the wise use of natural resources and conservation
that the farm and ranch community practices. It also gives the students
a first hand look at where some of their food comes from and the hard
but interesting work involved in agriculture.
Campbell demonstrates how damage to riparian areas negatively affects
the environment at the Binger Ranch Education Days. (B.L. Azure photo)
“A lot of children have never been exposed
what goes on at a ranch or farm,” Stivers said. “We want them to be
aware of that and to be aware that farmers and ranchers are good
environmental stewards that use the land wisely.”
Educators know that children in the fourth grade
are beginning to understand the world and their part in it. It is a
prime time to reach them as they progress to more complicated learning
fare. Seeds are planted that will bear fruit for the remainder of their
“It is a good time to reach out to them with the
message of conservation,” said Lake County Conservation District
Manager Chris Malgren. “Farmers and ranchers are the best
conservationists that you can find. Their livelihoods depend on good
Students at the Binger Ranch Education Days learned about where wool comes from. (B.L. Azure photo)
There were numerous learning stations that
exposed the fourth graders to various farm/ranch related agricultural
functions, practices and conservation.
They included ranch horsemanship, branding, horse
training, noxious weeds, sheep and wool, dairy, longhorn cattle,
horse-related employment, conservation, stream erosion and farm/ranch
The fourth grade Ranch Education Days was
sponsored by the Lake County Conservation District, MSU/Lake County
Extension, Montana Stock Growers, Montana Beef Council, Dan Salomon,
Polson Chamber of Commerce, Ronan Chamber of Commerce, Binger Ranch and
Mark Vrooman as well as countless volunteers.