KENNEDY - I can remember a catchphrase which my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Scholeno, had posted in her classroom at Paul B. D. Temple Elementary School in Kennedy: Kindergarten is, you know, a place where all the children grow. Ormond Farm, also in Kennedy, has continued a 13-year tradition of bringing the place where all the children grow to the place where all the food grows.
Thirteen years ago, Alex Ormond, Robin and Lonny Ormond's daughter, told her kindergarten teacher that she thought the class should take a trip to her farm to see how it works. In the present day, Alex is now an undergraduate at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, and a tradition of bringing the kindergarten class from Temple to the Ormond Farm once a year is firmly established.
"Usually we plan for 100 students on the trip," said Robin. "Our first class was a little over 100 - the class that Alex was in. Of course, class sizes go up and down, but that's usually what it is. On top of that, though, usually around 25 adults come with too, between parents and teachers."
Students from the Paul B.D. Temple Elementary School in Kennedy recently toured the Ormond Farm in Kennedy.
According to Robin, the initial trip to the farm became so popular that it became hard to say no to a trip for subsequent kindergarten classes.
"Our son is a year behind our daughter, so we were committed to the second year," said Robin. "Our next son, Dexter, is three years behind, so we thought we would do it until he got through. But then it just kept happening. They call us every year, and ask if they can do it again, and we really love having the kids here. The Temple school teachers are wonderful - they're awesome with the kids."
According to Robin, there were a few years after Dexter had gone through Kindergarten where the school was not sure if it would be able to find money in its budget to make the trip back out to the Ormond Farm.
"They almost didn't come," said Robin. "We approached the school board to see if we could encourage a few agricultural businesses to donate some money so the children could come out to the farm. The board talked about it for a while, and then decided that it would be justifiable to label the tour of the farm as a science field trip. We've been able to hold the trip every year since."
Once the students arrive at the Ormond Farm, they are split up into four groups, which travel from station to station.
"The students get to sit in a tractor and they get to learn about what tractors do and the role that tractors play in helping farmers work," said Robin. "We have calves that get moved up to the barn, and my father-in-law, Tom goes over calf-care and what calves do on a farm."
According to Robin, Tom fills up several feeding jugs with water, and students get to feed the calves just like a laborer would.
"The Dairy Princess is always here, as well," said Robin. "Samantha Nickerson, the current Dairy Princess, had Regents exams this year, so Ariel Slaven, alternate Dairy Princess, made the trip to the farm this year."
The next stop for students is to the milking parlor, where students get to see what the milking process entails.
"We keep a group of cows out that have already been milked for the morning, but we milk a few of them again so the students can see what it looks like," said Robin. "Many of the students have never seen a cow milked before, so for some of them, it's a very enlightening experience."
Additionally, the Ormonds keep a model cow, complete with working udders, on the farm specifically for the trip. Students get the opportunity to milk the model cow, which is filled with water.
Because so many kindergarteners have only seen food come from a grocery store when their parents bring them along to shop, the Ormonds believe it is important for the student to see where the food comes from before it ever reaches the store.
"We want the students to understand, as they get older, that the grocery store is not where food is made," said Robin. "When they hear about farmers struggling because of drought, or prices going up because of the cost of fuel for farmers - it's important for them to understand that what happens to the farmers eventually happens to everyone. It's not all negative, and we want them to understand that many farmers do what they do because they take pride in it, but it's very important for them to make the correlation between farms and food."
During the trip students generated many questions and became very interested in particular aspects of farm life. However, many of the adults who chaperone the tour also became curious about what they were seeing.
"Although the adults and the children often word their questions differently, sometimes they carry the same connotation," said Robin. "A lot of adults don't realize that a cow doesn't start giving milk until it has its first calf. Sometimes kids will realize that, but they might not completely understand why. On average, calves have two years on the farm before they're ready to start milking. It's all an education process."
Much of the explanation is the process of how food goes from the farm to the store.
"Most of what the students see is cow care and how to handle the cows," said Robin. "But the last thing they see before they leave is getting the milk out of the cow. The first few years we did it, the milking parlor was its own station, but it was too much for the cows. But now that the milking is the last thing they see, it works out very well. They see the cows getting milked and being put to pasture, and they see the tanks where the milk is stored. I would really like to have the truck come and pick up the milk while they're on the farm, but getting a dairy truck here while there are 100 kindergarteners would be very difficult."
However, the Ormonds are very happy with what the students take away from the trip, understanding that the students are only kindergarteners, they really hope they can plant the seed of curiosity, which might grow with the students.
"We can't hope to teach them everything that happens on a farm and why farms are so important, but we can get them interested and curious in them, so hopefully they will continue to ask questions about farms and where food comes from as they grow."