Fabulous Farm Animals­—Fact or Fiction? teaches elementary school students from urban schools about agriculture | TheFencePost.com

Fabulous Farm Animals­—Fact or Fiction? teaches elementary school students from urban schools about agriculture

Kelly Ragan

DENVER — About 24 years ago, Donna Garnett and Khadija Haynes mentored an at-risk young man from Five Points in Denver.

They took him to the National Western Stock Show, hoping the experience would impact his life. This young man could have ended up in jail, like his friends.

But he didn't.

He told Garnett and Haynes he kept out of trouble to ensure he got to see Haynes' horse.

What began with a mentorship grew into two decades worth of investment in agricultural education.

"That was what prompted us to start," said Garnett, co-founder of Children's Farms of America, Jan. 14 at the National Western Complex prior to presenting the Fabulous Farm Animal kids program. "We wanted to offer city kids an alternative."

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CFA has three urban farm locations within Denver, including Stapleton, Montbello and Green Valley Ranch. Their Embracing Horses program, which serves as a horsemanship education program, stretches into Weld and Adams counties.

"We help communities build farms for kids," Garnett said. "We think it's important for kids to understand where their food comes from. It makes them better citizens. They're better educated."

Garnett has hosted the "Fabulous Farm Animals — Fact or Fiction?" event at the National Western Stock Show for the past decade. The trivia-style game show ropes in third- and fourth-graders visiting the show from area schools. Two teams of kids weigh input from the crowd before they give answers to questions such as, "Are chickens vegetarians?"

When she's on stage asking the kids questions, Garnett just hopes they're learning and having a good time.

Children from urban and rural schools packed themselves together to watch their classmates on the hot seat.

"What's a steer? What's a steer?" one class from Denver chanted. Teachers from different schools watched the children's curiosity with satisfaction. The kids were learning.

Paris Trujillo, 29, teaches at Pioneer Elementary School in Fort Morgan. The school's 4-H extension office funds the field trip to National Western each year.

"The kids get excited about the animals and learning where their food comes from," Trujillo said. "They ask so many questions."

Jason Koester, 38, teaches at St. John's Lutheran school in Denver. He's chaperoned the National Western field trips for about 14 years.

"It's my goal to introduce topics, areas and concepts that they don't see everyday," Koester said. "Some of them get exposure to agriculture here that they never would get otherwise."

Though Garnett has been teaching at National Western for 10 years, Children's Farms of America is only two and half years old. She's been passionate about agricultural education since she can remember.

"Everyone deserves the lessons and peace that comes from being around farm animals and growing things," she said. "It shouldn't matter how much money your parents have."

Children's Farms of America has worked with about 400 kids so far with workshops, summer camps and school events. With many former students going on to study agriculture and animal science at Colorado State University or returning to volunteer at stock show events with Garnett, they have plans to grow.

Bethany Grassi, 10, attended National Western for the first time this year. It also was the first time she petted a chicken.

"The chicken was surprisingly soft and very sleek," Grassi said, breaking into a wide, innocent smile. "But I think the bunnies are cutest."

Haynes, former chairwoman of the CSU Extension Advisory Committee, shares Garnett's life-long passion for expanding agricultural education into the city. The disconnect between urban areas and food unnerves her.

"While the (Children's Farms of America show) is a snippet, a performance of sorts, it's a step on the bridge I think all kids need to cross," Haynes said. "Agriculture is like breathing — and it's as important." ❖

Children’s Farms of America

CFA has two programs

» Farms 4 Kids

» Embracing Horses

For more information, email info@farms4kids.org, call (720) 810-5475 or go to http://www.farms4kids.org.

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National Western Stock Show

» Events go from Jan. 9-24

For a full schedule of events, go to http://www.thefencepost.com or http://www.nationalwestern.com.