Erma McGill of Waverly, Neb., has been promoting and educating about agriculture as an Ag Pen Pal for 16 years writing and visiting classrooms. For the first two years Erma just visited classrooms and took brochures, samples of soy nuts, and soy milk, but for the last 12 years the classes have visited Erma’s farm.
When the students arrive at the farm there are several stations: Station one is in Erma’s kitchen where a retired college professor tells students about seeds and crop protection schools. He also tells them the products they eat and use every day come from farms. Stations two has farm animals where students get to pet and ask questions about the animals. At station three students have the opportunity to ride a horse. Erma’s adult children help with the horse rides. At station four the students get popcorn with soy popping oil, chocolate and white milk, soy nuts (chocolate and spiced) and ice cream cups!
Each learner receives a sack filled with information and prizes to take home. The incentives serve as a long-lasting reminder for many. Here is an example: While in the county booth at the fair last year a young girl who had visited Erma’s farm three years before said, “You are Erma, I visited your farm. How is Blackie the calf?” Erma replied, “Blackie is now a cow and is out in the pasture with her baby calf!”
Erma’s latest ag literacy volunteering includes taking the “Beef Reader” to a neighboring school. The “Beef Reader” is patterned after the ever- popular “Weekly Reader.” It is a letter from a ranch boy telling what happens on his ranch. It has illustrations about cuts of beef and games to play about beef in our diet and recipes.
Erma knows the value of volunteering. She also knows she cannot pull off these large scale learning opportunities alone. Her family, County Farm Bureau and friends are a big part of how it happens. Both Erma and her late husband have been Farm Bureau members since Farm Bureau started in Nebraska. Erma has also been involved with the Nebraska Farm Bureau Ag Promotion Committee as a committee member and as the chair for the last four years.
Thank you Erma for being an outstanding example of a volunteer who is passionate and willing to educate her community about agriculture!