By GARY POPP
Konkle Farms in western Floyd County opened its doors to the public Saturday for Community Farm Day.
The event was scheduled to urge kids and adults alike to become more acquainted with the agricultural practices taking place in the area.
“We are getting generations of kids who are getting more and more removed from farming and that knowledge of where food comes from,” Floyd County Farm Bureau president Bob Geswein said after delivering a speech at the event. “We want the young people to understand that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, that is just where you go to get it.”
For 15 years, Konkle Farms has been a field trip destination for fourth-grade students across Floyd County. Dennis Konkle said nearly 15,000 students have visited the farm over the years to learn about food production and farm life.
Konkle said it just seemed appropriate to host an event that would make the same lessons taught to the young students available to the whole community.
Several stations were set up on the grounds that specialized in a particular area of agricultural life. At one of the stations, Anthony Stewart with Raw Honey Products, of Lanesville, was there answering questions about beekeeping. Stewart said he as been in the honey business for nearly eight years, and explained different types of honey are produced depending on where the bees collect the honey. He said honey varies in taste and color depending on whether the nectar was taken from a locust tree, maple tree, wildflower or fruit, such as a berry or watermelon.
“In a good year you can get 100 pounds of honey out of one hive,” Stewart said.
He said he had eight hives in the spring, but by the end of the summer his operation expanded to 19 hives. Stewart said a single hive can have as many as 60,000 bees. He said since he started beekeeping, he has been stung nearly 1,000 times, which didn’t seem to bother him much.
“They say getting stung is good for arthritis,” Stewart said.
Just one station over, kids giggled as they pet two black Cotswold sheep, brought to Konkle Farms by Jack and Dana Cormack from Big Springs Farm and Fiber near Palmyra. Jack Cormack said the sheep were a rare breed, which had not been interrupted for nearly 2,000 years.
“Those are the same breed used by the Romans when they were conquering the world,” he said of the soft,curly haired sheep.
The Cormacks have been involved in the field trips at the farm for 10 years. Jack Cormack said he and his wife enjoy reaching out to young people because it gives them a greater understanding of raising sheep and how their wools can be crafted into useful items.
Next to the caged area where children interacted with the docile sheep, the Cormacks had a variety of wool goods on display.
Jack Cormack said sheep wool can be made into hats, back packs and other fashion accessories.
He said he always tries to make a connection with the kids when teaching them about sheep.
“If you can connect it to them, you can make it personal and interesting,” Jack Cormack said.
He said he makes that personal connection by comparing the body temperature, number of teeth and types of stomachs of sheep with that of humans.
Melba Loyd sat at a station where she shared virtually everything there is to know about preserving foods.
“I think food preserving is on its way back,” said Loyd, who previously worked with the Purdue Cooperation Extension Service for 17 years. She said those interested in food canning often want to know what type of jars, lids and canners are needed to preserve their own foods.
“People like the idea of the natural process,” she said.
She said people who were raised in a home where their parents or grandparents preserved foods, often become interested in canning as adults to pass along the nostalgia to their own children.
She said locally grown foods often used for canning include strawberries, blackberries, green beans and tomatoes.
Holy Family Elementary six-grader Hannah Clere walked around Community Farm Day with her father and State Representative Ed Clere.
Hannah had been to Konkle Farms already with her classmates.
“I learned a lot about the animals and what they are used for,” she said. “It seems to be hard to take care of the animals, but it is worth it.”
She said her favorite part of the activities was learning about beekeeping.
“The bees were really cool and helpful because they give us honey,” Hannah said.
Ed Clere said he was a big supporter of Konkle Farms and others teaching the community about food production.
“It is all about raising awareness of our sources of food,” he said. “It is something we take for granted, and this event helps bridge that gap.”