When was the last time you were on a Spring field trip, with grade school students? If you are like me, it has been a while. As a member of the Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF), I was invited to host a luncheon honoring the “Ag in Color” contest winners in Helena, MT.
So, on the morning of March 21, the second official day of spring, I loaded up my rig and left the ranch with the sound of the Eagles playing on my car stereo. The sky was a brilliant blue; the sun was shining brightly and reflecting off the snow, which still blanketed the countryside. And as I was headed west from Boyd, MT, the winners in each category, along with their families, were traveling from Ekalaka, Miles City, Choteau, Fairfield and Saco to gather at our Capital city to celebrate their accomplishments.
The “Ag in Color” contest is just that important and it is part of the Montana Youth (MY) Agriculture Literacy project, which is under the guidance of MFBF and the WLC. The Montana Farm Bureau continues to focus on agriculture literacy by providing materials to county Farm Bureau and local educators. This program is coordinated by Rikki Swant, a very capable and organized staffer for the MFBF. This event would not happen without Rikki’s tireless efforts and attention to detail. And the Women’s Leadership Committee would not function without the guidance of Alena Standley, who also works for the MFBF.
The” Ag in Color” contest was developed in recognition of National Ag Week, as a creative competition for elementary students. Each grade was given a different agriculture theme ranging from farm animals to noxious weeds to Ag-related careers. One winner was selected from each grade with one overall winner chosen from the drawings.
Our first event took place that evening, at Pizza Ranch, where participants were able to break bread and break the ice. Each winner and their family introduced themselves; the winners were accompanied by a mother or a father, or both, many brought siblings, maybe a grandma or grandpa and even an aunt or uncle. Some of the students’ teachers drove in to share in their accomplishments.
The Pizza Ranch provided a variety of food, complete with soft vanilla ice cream, and dessert pizza. There was a gigantic game room for the kids and TVs for the adults to keep an eye on the NCAA basketball tournament. The kids seemed delighted with the treats they won in the game room and one little girl even hauled away a stuffed giraffe. It was like being at a carnival, (in more ways than one).
Bright and early on Friday morning, after breakfast, we were picked up by a Trolley, and delivered to the Montana Department of Agriculture. The kids gathered around the large conference table while the adults were seated around the outside. The kids were provided with interesting facts about agriculture in Montana and given treats and bright brochures to take with them.
From there we walked across the street, to the Montana Historical Society, where we were given a tour of the Homestead Montana exhibit with a gentleman who knew more about Montana History than anyone I have ever met. Next, we made our way up the hill to our State Capitol. The tour started at the Governor’s office, where Governor Steve Bullock made a surprise appearance in the conference room, and as we were leaving the office, he took the time to have a photo with the kids! Pretty exciting! We learned some of the history of the Capitol, specifically, the Rotunda area and then had a sneak peek into the Senate Chambers. The senate was not in session until 1 p.m. that day so we didn’t get to see them in action.
We departed the Capitol headed to the hotel for the “Ag in Color” luncheon. Here I served as emcee. Special guests included First Lady, Lisa Bullock and John Youngberg, executive vice-president, MFBF, who helped with the emcee duties.
Our wonderful program sponsors included:
- Shawn Fladager, Northwest Farm Credit Services
- Christian Lehnert, Montana Weed Control Association
- Tammy Bridges, Montana Beef Council
We opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, and an invocation from John Youngberg. After lunch, John introduced First Lady, Lisa Bullock, who spoke about the importance of Montana Agriculture and the significance of their contribution by participating in the “Ag in Color” contest. Each winner was introduced with a short bio while being presented a gift bag, a certificate and having their photo taken with First Lady Bullock, John Youngberg, and a representative sponsor. The winners were as follows:
Kindergarten and First grade (judged together), theme “Farm Animals in Montana”, Winner: Dawson Keller, from Richey Elementary (unable to attend)
Second grade theme: “Grown in Montana”, Winner: Lily Schallenberger, Ekalaka Elementary
Third grade theme: “Cattle of Montana” sponsored by the Montana Beef Council, Winner: Samantha Kosse, Choteau Elementary
Fourth grade theme: “Noxious Weeds in Montana” sponsored by the Weed Control Association, Winner Jake Brown, Saco School
Fifth grade theme: “Grains of Montana”, Winner is Gracy Sieler, Greenfield School, Fairfield, MT
Sixth grade theme was “Ag Careers in Montana”, Winner: Ana Kanagy, SY School, Miles City
Prestigious overall winner, Sixth Grader Kamree Pearson of Greenfield School in Fairfield, MT
I have to admit it was a pretty great Spring Field Trip! It has been a while since I have been around that many kids. They were all bright and well behaved and if this group is any indication of the future of agriculture and generations to come, then we are in good hands. It was fun to see the kids come out of their shells in just the short time we had together.
Lastly, I would say, if you have not been to visit our State Capitol or the Montana Historical Society it is well worth the trip. Both are rich in history and beautiful in stature. Make this your next field trip is to Helena, Montana!
To learn more about the Ag in Color contest and My Agriculture Literacy contact Rikki Swant.
To learn about Women's Leadership Committee activities contact Alena Standley.