Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guest Blog: 5th Annual Domestic Study Away Day Six: "Seeking through Service"

Editor's Note:What is a Domestic Study Away? A Domestic Study Away (DSA) is a non-credit experience that is 100% Student-Developed and Student-led. The Penn State Teach Ag! Society runs where a group of students travel to a State to explore the following:

1. What does #AgEdu look like in other states? How is the total model of school-based agricultural education (Classroom Instruction, Youth Leadership Development <FFA> and Work-based learning <SAE>) uniquely provided?

2. Who are the #AgEdu Stakeholders in the state? Specifically, what agricultural industry is being served?

3. A unique yearly selected professional development topic! For #psuaged2WI, it is "Gender in the Agriculture Industry, Agricultural Classroom and Agricultural Education Profession.

You can virtually-engage with this experience by reading and commenting on the daily blogs and following the experience on Twitter and Facebook with our hashtag #PSUAgEd2WI. We could not complete this transformative learning experience with out the incredible support of our partners including: The Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators, The Wisconsin Team Ag Ed, The Penn State Center for Professional and Personnel Development and the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Student Activities Fund.

This is a series of blogs capturing reflections from each day of the experience by one of the participants. Below is the sixth day reflections of Macy Fisher (@macy_fisher), a member of the #psuaged18 cohort. Macy will be completing her student teaching internship with Ms. Valerie Fry of the Selinsgrove Agriscience Program in Selinsgrove, Pa. The reflection focus is the sixth official day of DSA visiting LaClare Dairy Goat Farm, Bonlander Furs Mink Ranch, an afternoon full of service learning projects and finishing the night at a Wisconsin Supper Club.

Clara Hedrich, retired from #AgEdu after 39 years and
owner of LaClara Farm

On Saturday May 13th, we began our daily adventures at LaClare Dairy Goat Farm which is owned by Larry and Clara Hedrich and four of their children. The farm began in 1978 when they purchased 22 acres to start a small dairy goat herd for their children to show through 4-H. After Larry working in construction and Clara teaching Agriculture Education for 39 years, they decided to stay home and expand their operation. In 1996, they decided to purchase milking machines and in the following years kept adding more and more to their farm. In 2008 was when their very first batch of cheese was created named Evalon. This cheese won LaClare Farms their very first award as the United State Champion Cheese, raising above all other dairy and goat cheese to take the title. Each of their children were given the same opportunity to return to the farm however they had to first receive a college education and then work for someone else for 2 years before they could return home. This is when they had their son, Greg, and three of their daughters, Anna, Jessica, and Kate, all realized that they wanted to come back home and make their farm flourish. In 2012, ground was broke at their current location where they have the milk facility, retail store, and all the equipment to produced their cheeses as well as the holding barn for their milking herd of 900 goats. The head consists of 4 different breeds of goats: Nubians, Alpines, Saanen, Toggenburg. For every 1 cow that a dairy farm milks, it takes 10 dairy goats to milk the equivalency. Before heading to our next destination, Clara left us with some things to reflect on. “Work smart and always be on the cutting edge that way you are known for something but don’t try to come in on your first day of teaching a try to save the world, ease your way into the back door. Ag teachers are unique, we get to do what we teach, how many English teachers have published a book?”


As we thought about what Clara had told us, we traveled not far down the road to the Bonlander Furs Mink Ranch. This is a family ran mink ranch that started in 1978. They originally had a chicken operation, however the mink farms in the surrounding areas would have an occasional mink get loose which would travel to the chicken farm in search of food. After catching several of the these wandering minks and talking to other local mink ranchers, the Bonlander’s decided to try their hand at raising minks. This made them the 5th mink farm in an 8 mile radius.

The farm currently has 850 females all of which have just had babies. Minks can have anywhere between 3 and 14 babies! Each mink is kept in its own separate cage with a nesting box for their babies. Babies are born with no hair and are about the size of a pinkie finger; they quickly grow to be chubby, furry babies who can be separated from their mothers after 6 to 8 weeks. The most valuable pelts will be found on minks that are are up to 2 years in age. The pelts are sold on average for $40/pelt at an auction in Canada where most are bought by China to be made into mink coats, jackets, hat and other various clothing. It takes on average 50 male pelts or 90 female pelts just to make one jacket that will be sold for $10,000.00! Minks are also so used for musk and colognes and also water proof oil used on boots and leather. All of us were amazed by this unique industry and learned that Wisconsin is the number one producer of mink in the United States!

In the afternoon, we headed to the local church to start our Service Learning Activities. We started by learning about the Holyland Food Pantry. The church used the empty parsonage building and set up the pantry like a store. Local businesses donated shelving, refrigerators, and freezers as well as many food products. There are also several donation locations where community members can drop off any food that can be used at the pantry. Donations can also be given through the mail carrier. Every house is given a bag that can be filled and then hung on the mailbox which is then brought to the pantry. Local farmers also give ground beef, milk, eggs and butter that families can take. Anyone is welcome to come each month to the “shopping day” where families are given a number and are called one at a time to shop individually. The pantry is always in need of donations, especially bottled water and will always accept a helping hand to volunteer.

We also learned about the Pens for Hens project which was started as by the local FFA members. They used the idea for the National Ag Sales contest where chicken pens would be build in Haiti using the metal and wood scraps that are readily available in the small towns and villages. The idea flourished and now local chapters build their own pens and auction them off. The proceeds are then sent to Haiti for villages to continue to construct pens. 
We also learned from a town carpenter about how to construct a lending library. He taught us the tricks and tips of how to construct these small boxes that serve as a library. The kids in the community can come and take a book to read and return it or any other book back to the library.

The interesting service learning project was the final one of the day where we were helping to restore the cemetery. Some of us were using Ammonia and soapy water to clean old head stones that you could not longer read, while others were helping to unearth fallen headstones that were buried in inches of soil. The stones were the placed in a bed of pebbles and cleaned. Many of us were inspired by this project and knew that we wanted to do the same process at cemeteries back home.

We ended our day by going to a Wisconsin Famous Supper Club. None of us had ever experienced a Supper Club before and were not sure what to expect. This is a long time tradition in Wisconsin and we had to go to one before we left! The Supper Club we attended was Jim and Linda’s Lakeview Supper Club which sits right on the edge of Lake Winnebago. We were able to mingle and converse with many of the people we had met during our week thus far including our superstar hosts who planned our week and connected us with each stop of our DSA trip. After enjoying our meals, some of our group decided to climb the tower that sits outside the Supper Club. From the top, you have an amazing view out over the lake. As the evening came to an end, our group decided to sit and watch the sunset on the lake. We had a time to just sit, think and reflect on how far we had come in the short week. It was a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day.

Day 6 gave us a new outlook on what our students and programs can do for our communities and how to serve others. I stand by the saying of many hand make little work, and today as instilled that in each of us. We all are refreshed and full of bright new ideas of how as an Agriculture Educator we can help our students to become helping hands in the world. We would like to thank everyone who mad our day successful and are grateful of the stories and advice shared with us though out the day!

Macy Fisher
@macy _ fisher

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