Saturday, June 23, 2012

National Ag in the Classroom

Hold on, this may take a while.

Wow, what week. Tuesday at 12:30 pm five of my school buddies and I loaded a school van and made a flying trip to Loveland, Colorado. Actually we did not fly, nor did the van, the trip went (OK, just 8 hours of driving and 1 hour for supper, but still...) Good stories, good times, good laughs. And then we made it to the hotel.

I don't think I've ever stayed in an Embassy Suites before. A bedroom, sitting room, 2 tvs, bathroom (of course) all for me and Tise. I kinda wished I could have spent more time in the room, it was truly fabulous. Maybe I need to take more vacations?

Beds facing a tv.

Bathroom origami.

Sitting room. Couch facing tv.

Our first night there I spent my evening pouring over the agenda that was given to me in my registration packet, which happened to be a backpack and included another bag, because I am told we will end up with loads of great freebies (and I did--more later).

Wednesday started with the hotel's continental breakfast and then we went to the opening session. Absolutely loved the keynote address. Cat Urbigkit is a rancher and book author from Wyoming. She has sheep.  She told great stories about her life and her sheep. And stories about other Wyoming animals. If you want to know more about her, visit her sheep ranch or her town. Someone or some group paid for every teacher at that session to receive an autographed copy of her book Cattle Kids. Super exciting. The freebies had started, and started good!

There were opportunities for four workshops throughout the day. Most were good. Super ideas. Like how to incorporate agricultural literature into lessons, longs lists of ag literature that we will give our librarian to order if she has money, and issues on the rangelands (still not sure I understand all that, but at least I have a start).

At our banquet-type noon meal everyone had a book on their chair Who Grew My Soup? and we networked with our table-mates.

Our evening buffet was also fun, but I was so tired from the day that I just wanted to sit in my great hotel room and read my novel (Learning by Karen Kingsbury).

Thursday was field trip day. Two of my Walton Buddies and I chose the Animal Agriculture tour (the selling point for me was a visit to a sheep feedlot). We rode a charter bus, nice (I thought we would be on school buses, but everything about this conference was done well buses, food, snacks).

We started at the sheep feedlot. This hotel (that is what the owner/tour guide called it) had 60,000 head of sheep.

My buddies Angela and Johanna.

Alpaca guard dogs-guard from four-legged and two-legged coyotes.

I tried some BBQ lamb ribs. I thought it was yummy. We saw some professional guys shearing (they were fast), and other sheep getting loaded to go get finished.

Wool baler.

My friend, a little lamb.

Next stop...meat packing plant. Very interesting. I took pictures, but think I will keep them to myself for now. There was only one part when I got concerned for my breakfast. That day they were finishing bison.

We wore lab coats and hair nets during the tour.

Lunch was supposed to be a sack lunch (at least I thought--field trip, right?), but we were treated to burgers at a country club. Not too fancy, but nice and we had time to relax and visit.

Now for seeing a cattle feedlot. I do not have any pictures, because we stayed on the bus, but I did catch a glimpse of one cowboy riding down an alley. There were something like 80,000 head of cattle at this hotel. It was really cool, and I would love to take my children to see it as well.

As we drove our bus tour guide pointed out every single field we passed and what was growing in it (carrots, sugar beets, corn, wheat, etc) and every single river or ditch and where it came from. We got a good ear-full of Colorado water issues, and that is confusing to this Kansas girl, but maybe I will need to learn more as water becomes more of an issue in Kansas as well.

Our group was fortunate to get back to the Embassy Suites by 4:15 (one group got back at 6:30) so we sat around in my buddies hotel room and shared our stories from the day. We opted to go to a local BBQ restaurant for supper and then a quiet evening back in our room.

I was totally looking forward to the Friday breakfast. It is the "state tables." That means that states can decorate their table with items from their top commodities and share goodies with people who sit with them. I was going to go to the Indiana table, but it was full. Next choice: Texas. I got a book, and a cowboy hat filled with Texas goodies (Texas-sized jelly beans and peanuts, for example).

After breakfast we loaded the van and started the trip back to Kansas. I was the mile marker tracker. I kept track of how many miles to the CO/KS border, then to Hays, Salina, and Hesston (with the help of my husband). I got a nap, and finished my book.

So many more stories to tell. So many ideas to try out next year. It's a good thing I am on summer vacation so that I can process some of what I learned this past week. 

Here is a peek at some of what I came home with...

Books, dvds, handouts, ag magazines, t shirts, a mousepad,  and even a teacher guide for plant nutrition lessons. And posters, I haven't even looked at them yet.

I would love to go to the 2013 National Conference. It is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Will my buddies let me go with them? I think it is farther than Colorado.

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