|November 8, 2012
Middle school students learn more than milk at Mission View Dairy
By Lailani Upham
Greg Shock, operator and owner of Mission View Dairy, keeps a group of Mission Middle Schooler students absorbed in the history and operation of a fading industry – the dairy farm. (Lailani Upham photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — Seventh grade students from St. Ignatius Middle School got a taste of the farm life – literally – last Thursday at Schock’s Mission View Dairy.
The Schock family hosted once again a group of students to learn about the dairy farm life and industry with a bright and early homemade gravy and biscuits and, of course, milk breakfast served in their large barn furnished with a industrial looking woodstove to ward off some of the chill.
“Every year since we have been coming out here it has been cold, snowy or rainy and muddy,” said Stacey Doll, Mission Middle School Seventh Grade Teacher.
The students are usually prepared donned with beanies, boots and thick hoodies.
CSKT Wildlife Biologist Stephanie Gillin gives a hands-on lesson to the students at one of the three stations hosted by the CSKT Natural Resource Department of the various wildlife species in the region. (Lailani Upham photo)
About 37 students from Mr. John Fleming and Doll’s social studies were fed and led to five stations covering domestic and wildlife animal habitat in the Valley.
The Schock Dairy farm have been inviting students for the past 20 years to experience what it’s like to live on a farm.
“You would think living in a rural area, especially Montana, kids would know where milk comes from – but many don’t,” stated Schock. “It’s surprising to know how many students have never seen a cow.”
Three wildlife biologist from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Fish and Wildlife Department, Whisper Means, Stephanie Gillin and Ryan Adams, set up stations to educate students on wildlife territory in the area; the wildlife crossing structures along Highway 93; and Grizzly bear habitat and behavior.
Whisper Means, CSKT Wildlife Biologist gives a lesson on the existence and importance of the wildlife crossing that are intact along Highway 93 on the Flathead Reservation. (Lailani Upham photo)
Another station included local rancher and neighbor Kurt McPherson, who runs an Angus bull operation who shared the hard but rewarding life of the cattle industry.
McPherson’s operation has grown globally and is shipping cattle as far as Russia and China. “It’s kind of surprising to know a small operation that started in little St. Ignatius is known globally,” said McPherson to a group of students. “It’s endless what you can do,” he encouraged the students.
McPherson says he’s been joining the Schock’s hosted field trip project for about five years.
Schock says the area where he lives along the Mission mountains is a huge Grizzly habitat and spots the bears on a weekly basis.
He said he wanted to offer information to the students to learn not only the life of animals on a farm but the animals that live in the surrounding areas.
Schock told the students the industry is dying off.
A dairy calf gives Seventh grader Jessie Girsch a spontaneous hug. (Lailani Upham photo)
He is a second-generation dairy farmer and the youngest as of today. Back in the day, say around the 1970’s, Schock said the valley was robust with dairy farms, and now there are only a few.
The operation totals out to 300 head of dairy cows, including calves.
One student asked Schock what the biggest problem was facing agriculture. His answer was the age we live in. It’s not a money-making industry but a great way to raise a family and do something you love he stated. “It’s almost impossible to start up (financially) a dairy operation. The age is the biggest thing (obstruction) facing agriculture,” he stated. Yet, he happily promotes the only life he has known and wants students to learn a bit of history of the not only the valley agriculture lifestyle but also bring in the natural animal habitat that has been here for more years than the rest.