LONG PRAIRIE -- A dozen Minnesota teen-agers took a close look at the many aspects of agriculture last week, some getting their first out-of-city experience.
The 13- to 15-year-olds at the Central Lakes College Exploring Agriculture Camp included eight from the charter school Minnesota Technology High School in St. Paul. The others were from Elk River, Sauk Centre and Park Rapids.
The program was based at Lake Beauty Bible Camp near Long Prairie and offered tours and activities throughout central Minnesota.
All campers had their hands full with tasks they'd never dreamed of performing. Nor did most of them have a clue about how deeply their lives are influenced by agriculture.
FFA assistant Sonja Stoterau of Eagle Bend (right) worked with Rachel Becker of Park Rapids in a horticulture project at the second annual Central Lakes College Exploring Agriculture Camp on Aug. 7-11. Several area FFA members volunteered for the unique event designed by CLC, which now offers the first two years of a University of Minnesota ag education degree on the Brainerd campus.
"We had a series of questions to answer about every activity," said Josh Riecken of Elk River. "These huge guidebooks for each stop had loads of information, and we got a lot of knowledge and some great souvenirs from the people who led the tours."
The tours included Central Lakes College, Brainerd and Staples, which co-sponsored the event with the Central Region Partnership and the Initiative Foundation. One day featured CLC's Ag Center near Staples, where experimental plantings guarantee new adventures with each new idea from the research and development scientists.
Another morning included hands-on activities at the CLC Greenhouse and nearby woodland under the direction of instructors Jeff Dirks in Horticulture and Gary Carson in Natural Resources.
The youths also toured Kroll's maple syrup farm near Long Prairie, Northern Co-Op and Golden Russet Potato at Wadena, the Caughey beef and dairy farm near Brainerd, the ethanol plant and Czech Dairy near Little Falls, food processing facilities, a wood processing plant, and area farms specializing in turkeys, hogs, and wild animals.
As CLC instructor Gary Carson observed, Jacki Petermeier (left), Sauk Centre, and Monique Kellogg, St. Paul, measured tree distances with instruments to calculate the size of trees. Campers also used instruments to measure the age and health of trees as part of their natural resources experience on the Brainerd campus.
"We had some good speakers to start each day, including a dairy princess who explained how milk gets from the cow to us," said Tara Beckerman of Sauk Centre. "And the end of each day at Lake Beauty Bible Camp was real relaxing."
Activities at day's end included inner tube floating down the picturesque Crow Wing River, horseback riding, swimming, nature hikes, a cook-out hosted by the 4-H, watching a farm-related movie, a ropes course and work on individual presentations that closed out the five-day camp.
"I think another benefit is meeting other kids from outside the city and doing team-building activities with them," said Monique Kellogg, 14, a freshman at the technology school in St. Paul. "Most of us didn't know what's in the rest of the state. We'd never been there."
Several area Future Farmers of America volunteered to assist at the camp. They include prospective students in the new CLC-University of Minnesota agriculture education partnership.
Region 2 FFA volunteers were Sonja Stoterau of Eagle Bend, a senior at Eagle Valley High School; Tim Uhlenkamp of Clarissa, regional president and a freshman at the University of Minnesota; Mark Jewell of Long Prairie, state vice president and also a U of M freshman; Kolby Kruse of Browerville, a senior at Staples-Motley High School; and Troy Tyrrell of Browerville, a junior at S-M High.
CLC now offers the first two years of courses toward a bachelor's degree in ag education offered by the University of Minnesota.
Twice annually the Brainerd campus also hosts regional FFA meetings and competitions.
The primary emphasis of the tours to businesses and industries in rural Minnesota is to explore many aspects of agriculture, said Shirley Judd, who with Norm Krause, Ag Center manager, coordinated the second-year event.
Campers paid only $100 each. Up to 25 campers can be accommodated. For information on next year's event, contact Judd at 894-5161.
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