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Ag Days packs fairgrounds with local students

by TRACY SCOTT Valley Press
| October 11, 2023 12:00 AM

The second annual Ag Days drew third-graders from all corners of Sanders County.

Students representing each of the county’s school districts, including the area’s homeschool co-op programs, spent the day learning about the many aspects of the agriculture industry.

Ag Days inception is the brainchild of Wendy Carr, a Sanders County Extension Agent of Agriculture, Horticulture, and Natural Resources. Fifty-five volunteers assisted this year, with many donations provided by local merchants and organizations.

One hundred and twenty-four students roamed the Sanders County Fairgrounds during Ag Days, followed closely by 29 teachers and chaperones. Students were divided into 12 groups, with each group starting their rotation through each learning stations.

This year’s learning stations were, Barney the Bison, Horse Drawn Hayrides, The Dorper Corner, The Buzz on Pollinators, Get Beefy, Be a Doctor, Eggciting Chickens, Hay You, Apple Cider Making, It’s Harvest Time, Microgreens, and 4-H Games.

Each station teacher was given 20 minutes for each group of students.

Barney the Bison station was staffed by Ranch owners Adam and Melinda Anakalea of the Harlow Ranch in Thompson Falls. The ranch was homesteaded by Melinda’s great-great grandfather in the 1880s and covers over 2,000 acres. They started raising bison in 2020 and currently have 80 head. Barney the Bison was born in Conrad in April of 2019 and was a twin. Bison who have twins will abandon one of the twins and Barney was rejected and found cold in a snowbank with frozen ears. He was bottle fed and at the age of two the Anakalea’s brought him home to their ranch. Barney isn’t a normal Bison, he likes people. For those interested in learning more about Bison, Ranch tours are offered at the Harlow Ranch. They can be reached at, info@harlowranch.com or call 406-403-4501.

Horse Drawn Hayrides were supplied by two Belgium draft horses named Pete and Ross. The teamster and caregiver of Pete and Ross was Laurence Walchuck. This was the first year that Walchuck offered wagon rides at Ag Days.

Dorper Corner was filled with sheep supplied by Carissa McNamara. Students could pet them and learn about the type of wool they produce.

The next station was Buzz on Pollinators, with members of the Eastern Sanders County Conservation District and Green Mountain Conservation District, Morgan Owens, and Emily Baker. Students learn about how pollinators (flowering plants that attract bees) help our environment.

The fairground cattle barn was the location of the station, Get Beefy. Teaching the kids was Western Montana Cattle Association member Nick Courville, from Charlo. Students learned about how cattle are raised and used in the industry. Third graders had a few very interesting questions about the functions and messes on the rear-end of a cow, “asking how often do cows take showers.”

Be a Doctor was taught by Thompson Falls Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie McIntyre. She spoke about the health and illnesses of horses. Each student was given the opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of a horse with a stethoscope.

The Eggciting Chickens station was staffed by Whitney Spurr, who brought a live chicken to teach about the many parts of a bird and their roll on the farm.

Alan and Cody Hafner were on hand at the Hay You station, showing off the equipment needed to bale hay. Students were intrigued by how a hay bale was made and used.

For the second year, Bruce Beckstead and Marilynn Carr were on hand to teach students about how apple cider is made. Students watched while Carr peeled apples. Beckstead had kids help him operate the apple press and each were rewarded with a cup of freshly squeezed apple cider.

The, It's Harvest Time station, was taught by Waterway, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm owner Beth Riffle. She showed off this year’s harvest and the importance of sustainable farming. Her farm is located at 12 Fruitland Lane in Thompson Falls and online at waterwaycsa.com. They have been in business for five years growing flowers and all natural vegetables grown from seed with natural fertilizers from their own animals. They are having a fall festival, Oct 14 and 15 with many free items. Their phone is 406-529-0514.

The Microgreens booth was taught by Kassy Moore, owner of Montana Wild Roots. They are a farm specializing in healthy green year-round microgreens, located in Trout Creek. Kids were able to taste test a variety of microgreens. Contact information is 406-242-0484.

4-H games were staffed by many youth volunteers from 4-H and FFA, Mikiah Cook, Melody Cook, Jayden Cook, Clair Wrobleski, Andrew Wrobleski, Katherine Wrobleski, Elsie Meyers, Nick McAllister, and Brooke Jackson. The games included musical chairs and the kids were introduced to the fine art of operating a lasso and trying to capture a horned wooden sawhorse. This event, for the spectators, was best viewed from a distance so the audience didn’t find themselves being roped.

A midday lunch was served for all students and volunteers provided by local producers. Lunch was cooked by Eastern Sanders County Conservations District and community volunteers, Don Feist, Ron Warren, Deb Warren, Chris Allen, Shannon Allen, Brian Crain, Roy Nygaard, and Dillon Martini. Hamburger beef was provided by Hope for Harley, Western Montana Stockmen’s Association, and the Marrinan Ranch. Buns, condiments, and plates were donated by Montana Farmer’s Union. Hamburger fixings and apples were donated by the Waterway CSA from Thompson Falls. Chips were donated by Valley Bank of Hot Springs. Drinks were donated by Clearwater Credit Union and Western Montana Stockmen’s Association and ice cream bars by First Security Bank.

Special thanks went out to Wendy Carr for her work directing Ag Days and making the event possible. Mary Dunn as the official timekeeper and horn blower and Linda Cook as the bus traffic director and photographer.

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Bruce Beckstead shows Plains student Hoytt Miller how to make apple cider. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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Aiden Williams learns about calf roping at Ag Days. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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Whitney Spurr talks with students Annabelle Torrey and Caydence Etienne at the Eggciting Chickens booth at Ag Days. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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Volunteer kitchen staff prepares lunch for students at Ag Days. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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Laurence Walchuck with Belgium draft horses Pete and Ross at Ag Days. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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Veterinarian Dr. Stephanie McIntyre shows students how to listen to a horse's heart beat. (Tracy Scott/Valley Press)

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