Justin Deleo led a cow past the playground and across the Byron-Bergen Elementary School campus as part of the annual Farm Day celebration. Justin and his cow were joined by goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, rabbits, tortoises, horses, more cows, and hundreds of Byron-Bergen Elementary School students.
Farm Day was created as a tool to introduce the school community to the agricultural economy surrounding the campus. Despite the rural setting, many Byron-Bergen students do not know a lot about working farms.
“It is important to ensure that elementary students have a general understanding of the domestic animals and plants which surround them in their communities,” said High School Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor Jeffrey Parnapy. “Farm Day also creates interest and curiosity in agriculture, which leads to exploring agricultural career choices.”
Justin is President of the Byron-Bergen FFA Chapter and a member of the Genesee County 4-H Dairy Club. “I like teaching people about agriculture,” said Deleo, who emphasized safety. “Everyone has different animals here so it’s important to learn how to be safe. A cow is not like a dog. If you run up to a cow, it might kick you, and you could really get hurt.”
Students moved from tent to tent with excitement. Older students ran with full-grown goats on leashes as though they were dogs, while baby goats were held on students’ laps like cats. Younger students delighted in petting ducks and bunnies as pigs snuffled the ground, completely unaware of the interest they generated.
Third-grade students Leanna Dietz and Brooklynn Sandow excitedly discussed the pigs who looked like piglets but were full-grown. Fellow third-grade students Naomi Allen and Scarlett Smith liked the bunnies the best, and Emily Davidson’s favorite animal was the German Shepard K-9 Officer from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation visiting with a handler and Byron-Bergen alumnus Officer Fay Fuerch.
Over by the playground, Cocoa, a Nigerian dwarf goat, and her two kids, Sandy and Potato, were also crowd favorites. “We use the goats for milk,” said sixth grader Riley Boland. “One time, we made ice cream.” Her family has a hobby farm that includes Lavender Orpington chickens.
Nearby, eighth-grade FFA member Michael Holley displayed eggs in different sizes, shapes, and colors while younger students guessed what kind of animals might have laid them. “I’m showing the younger kids how the eggs are produced and what we feed the chickens,” said Michael, who oversees letting out and bringing in the chickens daily at his family’s farm.
Michael was eager to participate in Farm Day, as was seventh-grade student Ava Williams. She let the younger students pet her cow, Lucky. “I have been working with him for the last few weeks, and he loves to be outside,” she said.
“I think Farm Day is valuable,” said eighth-grade FFA member Taylor Lundfelt. “It’s an informative day. It’s a good day for kids to learn.”
While the cows and pigs are the stars of the show, Farm Day is not all about animals. Students learned the difference between hay and straw, touched and compared different kinds of animal feed, and were given baggies with sunflower seeds in peat moss pellets, ready to be planted at home.
“Our students love to come to Farm Day because not only do they recognize the high school kids, but they love to look at the animals and ask questions,” said third-grade teacher Colleen Hardenbrook. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get outside and connect with the community.”
Photos courtesy of Gretchen Spittler