News  |  October 12, 2023

A.C.R.E. Days Gives Students On-Farm Learning Experience

Staples, MN (September 22, 2023) –

The A.C.R.E. (AgriCulture Rural Exploration/Education) Project held on September 21 and 22, 2023, in Staples, Minnesota, brought together over 800 junior high students from 16 school districts in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties. This educational initiative provided students with a unique opportunity to explore agriculture and rural life in their region.

The students participated in on-farm field trips within their respective counties, as well as visits to the Central Lakes College Ag & Energy Research Center. These field trips offered a hands-on learning experience, allowing students to connect with the agricultural and rural aspects of their community.

The scheduling of the field trips is noteworthy, with the morning sessions taking place at either the students’ local farm sites or the Ag & Energy Center, followed by afternoon trips to the other location. This approach ensured that the students had a well-rounded exposure to the agricultural and energy-related aspects of their region, promoting education and awareness about rural life and its significance.

Exploration On the Farm

An investment from USDA, created this opportunity for students to learn about innovative agriculture methods being used today. The knowledge and hands-on experience gained from such initiatives can be invaluable for the next generation of farmers and environmentally conscious individuals.

The farms visited were Barry’s Cherries, Brakstad Natural Farms, Cloverleaf Grass Farm, Grampa G’s, Little Elk Dairy, Oasis Orchards, Raising a Farmer, Smude Angus Farm, and Strictly Mushrooms, each provided unique insights into various aspects of agriculture and sustainable farming practices.

If you’re interested in learning more about any of these farms, you might consider visiting their respective websites or searching online for more information about their specific approaches to hydroponics, soil building techniques, winter greenhouse farming, water stewardship farming techniques, and any other innovative methods they employ. Each of these farms could potentially offer a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for those interested in modern agriculture and sustainable farming.

A Showcase of Agriculture Career Opportunities

At the Ag & Energy Center, participants were treated to a showcase of the many career opportunities that agriculture has to offer, hosted by industry experts. Hosts were represented from Central Lakes College Meat Cutting, Precision Food Production & Horticulture programs, University of Minnesota Extension, NRCS, Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence, Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Through these workshops, students got to see a meat cutting demonstration and a rainfall simulator, fly a drone, walk through the soil tunnel, interact with the transportation simulators, and learn about plant science and crop scouting. Oasis Orchards provided fresh KinderKrisp apples and Barry’s Cherries provided hydroponic lettuce to the meals students received at the Ag & Energy Center.

The Ag & Energy Center provided students with a comprehensive showcase of the diverse career opportunities available in the field of agriculture. This event was made possible through the collaboration of industry experts and representatives from various organizations and programs. The lineup of hosts at the event included:

  1. Central Lakes College Meat Cutting, Precision Food Production & Horticulture programs
  2. University of Minnesota Extension
  3. NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
  4. Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence
  5. Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence
  6. Minnesota Department of Agriculture

These workshops and demonstrations offered students a wide range of experiences and insights into the world of agriculture and related fields. Some of the activities and highlights included:

  • Meat Cutting Demonstration: Students had the opportunity to witness a meat cutting demonstration, gaining insights into the butchery and processing aspect of the food industry.
  • Rainfall Simulator: A rainfall simulator likely demonstrated the impact of rainfall on soil and how it can affect agriculture and water management.
  • Drone Flight: Students got to fly a drone, introducing them to the use of modern technology in agriculture, such as precision agriculture and crop monitoring.
  • Soil Tunnel: The soil tunnel allowed students to walk through and learn about soil science and its importance in agriculture and land management.
  • Transportation Simulators: Interaction with transportation simulators provided insight into the transportation and logistics aspects of agriculture.
  • Plant Science and Crop Scouting: This likely involved learning about plant science, crop management, and the practices involved in effective crop scouting.

In addition to these educational experiences, students enjoyed fresh produce from local farms. Oasis Orchards provided KinderKrisp apples, and Barry’s Cherries contributed hydroponic lettuce to the meals served at the Ag & Energy Center. These fresh, locally sourced ingredients further emphasized the importance of sustainable and locally grown food in agriculture.

This event showcased not only the educational aspect of agriculture but also the diverse and exciting career opportunities available within this field. It was an excellent way to inspire and inform the next generation about the possibilities and importance of agriculture and related industries.

Possible Funding Opportunities for Student Proposals

This initiative not only encourages hands-on learning but also empowers students to become active contributors to their communities. It promotes the application of agricultural knowledge and skills in a real-world context, fostering a sense of responsibility and innovation among the next generation of farmers and agricultural leaders.Student groups have been invited to submit a “project idea” that reflects their ACRE Day learnings. The student-driven proposals will show how it can benefit their school or community in the agricultural sense. Each finalist group has the opportunity to be awarded up to $5,000 to complete their project.

This program was facilitated by Region Five Development Commission, in collaboration with Central Lakes College and Sprout, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.