Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

May 13, 2010

Binger Ranch tour highlights role of agriculture for fourth graders

By B.L. Azure

Carlos Rodriques uses his hawk "Drumstick" to educate the youngsters on the value of conservation at the Binger Ranch Education Days . (B.L. Azure photo)
Carlos Rodriques uses his hawk "Drumstick" to educate the youngsters on the value of conservation at the Binger Ranch Education Days . (B.L. Azure photo)

IRVINE FLATS — Things sure have changed since Ol’ 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.

Flathead Reservation Extension Agent Rene Kittle shows how deep the route system of some noxious weeds can penetrate the earth. (B.L. Azure photo)
Flathead 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 Days 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.

John Campbell demonstrates how damage to riparian areas negatively affects the environment at the Binger Ranch Education Days. (B.L. Azure photo)
John 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 to 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 lives.

“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 conservation practices.”

Students at the Binger Ranch Education Days learned about where wool comes from. (B.L. Azure photo)
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 safety.

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.

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