OTTAWA — Rain clouds hang low to the south, but the more than 300 third-graders scattered across the Midland Genetics grounds at Sylvester Ranch on Tuesday morning don't seem to pay them much attention.
On a day normally known for muggy temperatures and sweltering heat, there's a cool breeze moving that's keeping things cooler this year.
For more than 30 years, third-graders have been invited to the ranch to to experience agriculture first hand and learn more about where their food comes from during the Franklin County Day on the Farm event.
“Most of these kids are four, five, even six generations removed from the farm, so it’s essential to help them see how important agriculture is to their everyday lives,” Shawn Turner, co-organizer of the annual event.
Turner, who owns Turner Flowers in Ottawa, said the event gives students a chance to rotate among learning stations, which vary from hands-on experiences with livestock to lessons in farm safety, exposure to technology and STEM careers in agriculture.
Turner remembers attending the event as a third-grader in 1995, and later participating as a high school presenter later on. Today, he serves an integral part in planning the event alongside Beth Zillinger.
"I guess I've come full-circle," he said. "There's a lot parents here today that attended when they were third-graders. We remember coming out here and doing the same thing."
Founded in the early 1990s, the Franklin County Day on the Farm has provided early-life agricultural education for thousands of Franklin County third-graders, he said.
Community organizations and businesses involved include the Franklin County Farm Bureau, Frontier Extension District, Franklin County Conservation District, FFA and FCCLA chapters from all Franklin County schools, the Franklin County Visitors Center, Dunns Landing, Nutrients for Life, Franklin County EMS, and Cottonwood Animal Hospital. Several other local businesses help sponsor T-shirts for volunteers and presenters as well as backpacks to take home educational materials to share with their families and water bottles to stay hydrated during the event.