Kids connect to ag: Sublette County features ag edWritten by Saige
Big Piney – Now in their second year, Kari Bousman, Sno Ann Engler, Sandy Wright and the Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) are reaching out to youth at the Sublette County Fair to increase their knowledge about agriculture with the Kids Ag Connection.
“Our main goal is to just expose people to different things in agriculture,” says Bousman, who founded the program last year. “We hope it interests the kids enough to do some research later on.”
In the first year of the program, Bousman, Engler and Wright set up four different animal sessions where kids, largely from three years old up to second grade, could learn about different animal species in fun and hands-on presentations.
“Last year we had a milk cow, goats, sheep and chickens,” says Bousman. “The kids got to see a goat get milked and made butter by shaking cream in a jar.”
“It’s labor intensive at first,” says Bousman. “It all works out in the end, though.”
Community members teach each animal session, including 4-H members who presented their rabbits and chickens and adults who spoke about horses and calves.
“This year we decided to do a booth and animal sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” explains Bousman. “The main idea of the booth is to educate about all the different animals, and we wanted to add in brands. We are painting brands on kids while telling them what a brand is.”
As part of the booth, various posters about the individual species educate youth unable to make the animal sessions. The booth also features a display of different grains for feed, the chick lifecycle, a horse hoof and a contest to guess the number of rabbit pellets in a jar.
This year, Pinedale FFA members Ryan Wright and Heather Owens have taken an active role in the booth by educating the young people who stop by, and youth attending the animal session come away with much more than just agricultural knowledge.
“Whoever comes to the session gets a free goodie bag with information and a t-shirt,” says Bousman. “They are really getting a lot when they come to the animal sessions.”
The bag also includes a popsicle, 4-H and beef temporary tattoos and stickers and an activity book put together by members of the SCCD. The activity book has a number of coloring pages, activity pages and fun facts about the animals featured in each session.
Bousman says she is very happy with the level of participation and the size of the project.
“Last year we had 30 to 40 kids at each animal session. We’re hoping to hit that and get more this year,” says Bousman.
This year, people from across Sublette County attended the animal sessions, including Pinedale day care provider Judi Boyce.
“It’s a really good idea,” says Boyce of the program. “The kids really enjoyed holding the animals.”
Boyce brought four children from her daycare to attend two of the animal sessions this year.
“Last year, we didn’t know about it, but this year they called our daycare and brought us a flyer,” says Boyce.
“I loved it,” said Nick Boyce, the seven-year-old son of Judi Boyce. “I didn’t know that bunnies have different hair or that they are blind when they are born.”
“I really want to come back next time,” added Nick.
In order to run the program, SCCD, Green River Valley Cattleman’s Association, Green River Valley Cattlewomen and the Sublette County Fair Board have provided both monetary resources and support.
“Our conservation district has really been a strong supporter behind Kids Ag Connection,” says Bousman. “They let us use their office and printing materials. They also take care of our money. This year the Fair Board pitched in so we could buy t-shirts.”
Bousman feels the second year of the project was very successful, and plans to continue in the future.
“Right now we are going to keep this level, with just the booth and animal sessions. I would love to have barn tours in the future,” says Bousman.
Bousman will continue working with the SCCD during the school year in the hope of introducing Kids Ag Connection to the Sublette County after-school program.
“I’m hoping to take the individual sessions from here and take them into the after school program,” says Bousman. “I would love for this to expand farther.”
Bousman feels it is incredibly beneficial for everyone who attends, explaining that there are so many misconceptions about agriculture today.
“It’s a shocker to a lot of kids when we talk about eating rabbits, because they think of rabbits as a pet instead of an agricultural tool,” says Bousman, providing examples of some of the things kids have learned. “So many people think it is animal cruelty to make horses work hard, for example. They don’t understand that some horses just aren’t happy unless they are working.”
Not only is the Kids Ag Connection a program she started, but Bousman is also able to identify with youth who are unfamiliar with agriculture.
“I didn’t grow up ranching, so I can see from both worlds,” explains Bousman. “I lived in a farming community, but I didn’t appreciate things like the different types of grasses or cows.”
Since becoming more involved in ranching, Bousman says, “I’ve become passionate about agriculture.”