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Tour-A-Farm Day brings Riverland Ag students to front line of agriculture

From sunrise to sundown, area farmers work the fields and prepare for planting season. For Riverland Community College students, they’re getting an intimate look at how much work goes into the food they eat.

Last Friday marked the second year for Tour-A-Farm Day, where students got first-hand experience in seeing agriculture through the perspective of a local farmer, whether it’s actively seeing machinery in operation, or seeing the amount of work it takes to get ready for the season.

Leon Schiltz, a farmer in Glenville, played host for the students and took the opportunity to help them see what he does on a daily basis.

Riverland ag intructor Nick Schiltz runs through the plan for Tour-A-Farm Day on his father Leon’s farm. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“For some students, this may be the first time they’re out on a farm,” said Nick Schiltz, ag instructor for the Center of Agricultural Science and Food Technology, who is also Leon’s son. “For others, it may be a typical Friday.”

The Tour-A-Farm Day was designed to provide an outer classroom experience for local students to learn about agricultural production practices and techniques, as well as getting a sense on what it takes to be a farmer in 2019.The day also intedned to provide the appreciation for how vital a role agriculture plays into southeast Minnesota.

Around 10 students were also able to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom setting into real world scenarios because of Tour-A-Farm Day. Doing so provides a more realistic and hands-on approach to agricultural and food science technology education.

“This has the real, visceral feel,” Schiltz said. “Students are able to see this up close. They can read the material and get a lot of information that way, but when they’re able to see it up close, it becomes more interesting and may even spark a few students to consider having a few careers in these industries, in these areas and appreciate agricultural and food science technology. This could spark a future career pathway for them.”

Leon Schiltz explains the drying process of corn to Riverland students during a visit to his farm.

Why agricultural education matters

Tour-A-Farm Day is more than just a chance for students to see with their own eyes the active industry that provides food for the United States. It’s also a vital time when ties between the classroom and local farmers have become even more far removed.

“When only 2 percent of the population have ties to professional agriculture, there’s a significant need for farmers to share their story about what they do and how they do it,” Schiltz said. “As programs continue to grow across the U.S., it’s important for a lot of teachers and for students to demonstrate how important agriculture is and appreciate it.”

More efforts have been made in the last several years of having students in Mower County visit local farms and learn about where their food comes from, as well as meeting the people who produce them. Despite learning about agriculture in textbooks and from watching videos, the impact that Tour-A-Farm Day has on students is crucial.

“It’s important for teachers and farmers to advocate for agriculture and show students of all grades and ages how impactful it is for our local economy,” Schiltz said. “Simply put, we want them to really appreciate all the hard work it takes to maintain a farm and observing the opportunities available to them in their education.”

Read more in our annual Spring Ag section available now.