The Hadden Farm in Morgan County brings back fond childhood memories for Abby Crow.
As a kid, the Murrayville resident visited the five-generation grain and livestock farm as part of a farm tour for area students. In late April, she returned there, leading a small group of fourth graders around 11 learning stations.
“It’s one of my favorite things,” said Crow, who works for Prairieland FS and has volunteered during the tour a handful of times. “It’s so exciting for (the students) to come out and experience this when they only hear about or see (farms) on TV.”
The tour, which is coordinated through Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom, started more than 30 years ago. But it was Carolyn Hadden who first pitched the idea of bringing students to the farm.
As a preschool teacher’s aide about 40 years ago, Hadden recalled the class having a conversation about milk, with many of the students believing milk came from the grocery. That needed to change, Hadden thought.
She invited parents and their preschool and kindergarten students to the farm to see where their food comes from. The tour eventually became part of the Ag in the Classroom program.
About 525 students — roughly 100 a day — participated in the farm tour, visiting stations covering grain bin safety, donkeys, chicks, cows, sheep, pigs, combine, tractor, planter, grain and seed production, with touching, climbing, petting and smelling all included.
Hadden’s son, Dale, shared his family’s farming history with the group and explained how his entire family helps before, during and after the event. The Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau president also offered the students from Franklin, Eisenhower, A-C Central and Salem Lutheran schools some advice: “Ask a lot of questions.”
Indeed they did.
“Why do the cows stink?”
“Why are the sheep different colors?”
“How long does it take to make a combine?”
Dozens of volunteers, including area farmers, ag business leaders, and Franklin and A-C Central FFA members, fielded the questions, shared their expertise and herded the students from station to station.
Franklin School teacher Mary Henry said this was her 10th year at the farm.
“My first class graduated two years ago,” she said, noting she has seen many familiar faces as her former students come back to volunteer with FFA.
Throughout the day, both parents and volunteers shared stories of visiting the farm when they were younger.
Two parents approached Carolyn Hadden, noting they remembered eating a snack at her kitchen table when they toured the farm.
The memories brought a smile to her face.
Every year, Henry’s inspired by her students’ questions, and the look of awe when they visit the farm.
“As a teacher, I love it,” she said.
Lisa Hadden, Cass-Morgan Ag in the Classroom coordinator, helped with the farm tours — mainly the pigs — even prior to taking her current position five years ago.
“About every month I go and see 500 fourth-graders and we do a different lesson each time, and I try to do something that they’re going to be exposed to at the farm,” she said.
While some of the students are so enamored with the farm tour that they say they want to be a farmer, Lisa Hadden said she stresses to them the agricultural industry has many opportunities.
“You don’t have to be a farmer, I tell them,” she said. “There’s always a need to eat and always a need for clothes. There’s going to be a job in agriculture for you.”
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.