The Upper Sandusky FFA chapter welcomed 141 Upper Sandusky second graders to the high school Tuesday as it put on Apple Butter Day, which resulted in a smile on every one of its guests’ faces.
With East, South and St. Peter’s elementaries having the experience in the morning and Union Elementary in the afternoon, the students got to experience milking cows and goats, sitting in a monster tractor, petting smaller animals and even singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” during their time with the high school buddies.
“It’s definitely a hands-on approach,” Union teacher Mindy Newell said. “A lot of these kids live within Upper Sandusky and to milk a cow is amazing. I have a lot of boys in my class and they really need a hands-on approach. (The FFA) is so well organized and does a nice job every year.”
The mentor even got on and rode a horse herself after Union student Cameron Vince did so.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I’ve only ridden a horse at the fair once.”
The tradition began 24 years ago and has picked up steam ever since.
“It started out that we did it in the fall and made apple butter, which we would put in our fruit baskets,” FFA adviser John Lawyer said. “But it got to the point where we were making too many fruit baskets and it was taking too long and the weather was always bad, so we moved it to May about 15 years ago.
“The theory behind it is we want to expose second graders to what real agriculture is,” he added. “We try to change the theme up every year and this year’s is ‘barnyard animals.’ We added milking the cow and a few years ago we added (milking) the goat. We’ve also added riding horses, a big tractor and an old-antique tractor.”
Union student Cassidy Conrad found milking a goat to be an interesting experience.
“It was creepy because it was hairy,” she said.
“It’s fun,” classmate Julia Johnson said. “My favorite part was being with (FFA member) Jesse (Shane) and milking the cow and goat.”
Other activities included pedal tractor races, using apple peelers, story time and making sheep during craft time. The smaller animals present were a bunny, puppy and pair of pot-bellied pigs.
According to Lawyer, there always seem to be a few experiences that stand out above the rest.
“One of the highlights every year is the soybean pit, where we pour soybeans into a pit and the kids just play in it,” he said. “The other favorites are fairly spread out, but apple peeling and snacks are also up there. They get to make dirt pudding this year. (George) Fry also always brings in his draft horses for (carriage) rides, so that helps build community support and that’s always nice.”
Along with the dirt pudding, homemade soup by the high school students was available.
“It’s totally worth the experience,” Union teacher Marla Ritter said.
By PATRICK MASSARA