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2014-04-17

Learning at Farm Bureau's Ag Day

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Photos by Carolyn B. Edwards

Bandera County Farm Bureau stepped into its third decade with the 21st annual Ag Day Friday, April 11, at Mansfield Park. Fourth graders from BISD's Hill Country and Alkek elementaries, Medina Elementary and Utopia Elementary spent the day learning how important agriculture is in their daily lives.
Throughout the day, groups of students rotated around a total of 13 stations where experts shared their knowledge about the impact agriculture has in Bandera County.
Students learned about sheep shearing, observed the workings of a milking machine, watched bees working in their hive, learned about beef and their by-products, heard tips about being safe around power lines and electricity, saw a working cotton gin, learned about soil conservation, watched a horse being shod, heard about the fun and educational benefits of joining 4-H, got to see a big selection of farm equipment and learned how wood is cut, aged and turned into useful items and toys.
The day started with a demonstration in the arena by Juanea Rucker and her sheep dogs. The dogs were a real crowd pleaser as Rucker warmed them up by sending them to fetch flying discs. Then the real work began as Rucker unloaded a flock of young goats and worked with the dogs to herd them back onto the trailer.
The students really admired the intelligence of the dogs as they successfully completed their assignment, putting all the little goats safely back on the trailer.
Michelle and Sam Heinz from D'Hanis spoke to the students about the importance of protecting our bee population. "Lots of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and cotton are pollinated by bees," said Michelle. "Without the work of the bees, the plants would not produce any fruit."
Honey, beeswax and royal jelly are important products of the bee. Sam explained that most of the honeybee hives in Texas have now been contaminated by Africanized bees, so bees are more aggressive. When he collects honey he wears a special outfit that covers his entire body to keep from being stung. However, Michelle said she allowed bees to sting her shoulder repeatedly over the course of several weeks when she was experiencing a lot of pain in the shoulder joint.
Sam showed the students pictures of the three kinds of bees: worker, drone and queen, and explained the specific jobs each of them does.
"The queen is the most important bee in the hive and she gets lots of attention," said Sam. "She is fed, cleaned and kept comfortable, because her only job is to lay about 1,000 eggs a day."
When a hive reaches a certain size, the queen leaves the hive in a swarm, taking about half of the other bees with her. The remainder create a new queen by feeding a larva royal jelly.
The Heinzes find their bees in the wild or purchase them. They can be shipped in special containers through the US Postal Service.
Ag Day continues to be a successful educational program due in large part to the dedicated volunteers, some of whom have been helping out since year one. Farm Bureau President Barbara Mazurek heads up the project; insurance agent Booker Young provides tender brisket for the volunteers' lunch; members of FFA help get the kids to their stations on schedule; and the exhibitors put in a long day while enthusiastically sharing their expertise.