By Mariah Larson
Last week the first of four 2017 Farm Camps kicked off at Farmamerica near Waseca where several commodity groups came out to share information with youth from across the state about modern agriculture. As a first time attendee myself, I enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to talk to campers about Minnesota’s “A-Maize-ing Little Kernel.”
This year the four camps are spread throughout the central part of the state, engaging with third through fifth graders, discussing the importance of Minnesota agriculture and the role it has in our daily lives.
Campers attending can look forward to a huge day ahead of them, with each camp starting early in the morning and wrapping up in the afternoon. At each location, I share the message about Minnesota corn with more than 100 kids every day! Farmamerica’s center was a great place to host our camps last week, and I had my tent located right next to a lovely corn field for a fitting backdrop.
While visiting the Minnesota Corn tent, campers learn about the value of corn in Minnesota, along with its many uses, and why it’s important that we keep growing.
At the tent, campers can win prizes, participate in a group competition, enjoy a sweet treat and get creative with a hands-on science experiment.
Kicking it off right away, we learn about corn-related vocab, and how to identify and describe the three main types of corn. The major focus is on dent field corn, and its many uses in products, fuel and feed.
Following that, we hold a competition that requires attendees to work together and sort out the corn products from corn-free products—leading to a lot of surprises, questions and product descriptions.
We also have DDGS cookies from an MCGA-funded South Dakota State University research project; this goes along with our talk on ethanol and the opportunity last week to visit an ethanol plant tour after the last camp rotation.
Wrapping the station up, we make corn slime, demonstrating the unique physical and chemical properties that little kernel has, allowing it to be used in so many different products (as we found out during the competition).
At the end of the day, each camper was sent home with a goodie bag containing some educational material, fun prizes and corny recipes from the learning experience they had about the little kernel that’s growing our communities.
Reflecting on my first two camps, the kids had a great time, and I really enjoyed hearing their responses to my last couple questions: “What’s the future like for corn? What should we do?”
(My favorite responses ranged from corn plastic and trade, to growing giant sweet corn cobs and making material from corn stalks.)
I have two more camps this week at different locations, and I’m excited to hear what the campers’ big ideas are for this little kernel.