Just For Kids : Organic Games : Organic Field Trip

Organic Field Trip

Today Jack's class is going on a field trip. Jack is nervous about this one.

It was cool when his class went to the historical museum. The fish hatchery was really awesome, too! This time Jack is going right back home for the field trip, to the Greene Family Farm. Although Jack has lots of fun working on his family's farm, he wondered if his classmates would think organic farming is boring stuff.

His teacher, Ms. Williams, knew this particular farm was special. Jack's class was about to find out how special this farm, and others like it, really are!

As their school bus turned onto the narrow gravel road leading up to the farm, Jack could see his mom and dad smiling and waving in front of the barn. When he saw his friends waving back, Jack grinned. This might be fun after all, he thought.

Jack's dad walked over to the bus. "I'm glad you made it. We've really been looking forward to showing the kids our organic farm," he said to the teacher.

Ms. Williams replied with a smile, "And we're eager to learn how you grow healthy plants and animals using earth-friendly methods."

"Okay kids, follow me over to our vegetable garden and I'll tell you about farming," said Mr. Greene. He led them over to the field while explaining, "All farmers want to grow healthy plants and animals. What's different about organic farmers is that they do not use man-made substances that can sometimes stay around and harm the environment. Instead, they use natural substances and methods."

Jack's friend, Mike, noticed the dark soil and bent down to touch it. "What's natural about this dirt?"

"That's a very good question, Mike. It's actually not really dirt. It's soil, and it's full of life." replied Jack's mom, Mrs. Greene, as she sunk a shovel into the ground and then flipped it over. The soil was soft and spongy. "What do you kids see in this top soil?"

spacerJack's classmates answered enthusiastically. "I see worms!" "Are those millipedes?" "Hey! Cool! Bugs!"

"That's right," laughed Mr. Greene, noticing their fascination. "Earthworms, insects, snails, and millipedes all come to work every day, using their legs and bodies-moving through this rich soil and mixing important nutrients. That includes important living organisms that you can't see like bacteria, fungi and algae. They are called microorganisms."

"Go ahead and pick up some soil. It even smells sweet and healthy. It's alive-with it's own little 'town' under there."

The kids dug in and examined the soil. Mrs. Greene explained, "Organic farmers make sure that the soil gets fed to keep it well balanced and help grow healthy plants." "You mean you have soil on a diet?" asked Jamie. Mr. Greene continued, "Sort of, Jamie. The soil has it's own biological activity that includes growth, decay, and nutrient recycling. We do certain things to add nutrients and keep the bugs happy. Let's go over to the fields, and we'll show you what we're talking about."

spacerThe students looked around at the beautiful farm as they walked to the fields. "Do you see all the different kinds of crops we grow? "I see sweet corn," "There's carrots," "Look at the flowers!" "What's that?" asked the children. "Potatoes!" said Jack. "Instead of planting just one crop, we plant several plant types. It is called diversity," said Mrs. Greene.

Ms. Williams asked, "Who knows what an ecosystem is?"

spacerThe students shrugged their shoulders so Jack said softly, "The ecosystem is the circle of life. It means all living things need each other to survive. Like, birds eat worms and worms eat dead plants and keep the soil healthy. If there weren't worms, then what would the birds eat? If one creature disappears, it affects all creatures.

"When my Dad talked about the growth, decay, and recycling of nutrients in the soil, this is part of the ecosystem at work. In organic farming, we try to copy the natural ecosystem to keep the soil balanced and healthy. When things are in balance, it helps prevent harmful insects, weeds or diseases from taking over."

"Why is having living soil so important," asked Frank. "After all, I don't eat the soil, I eat the food."

"That is what organic farming is all about, Frank," said Mr. Greene. "Organic farmers build healthy soil to grow healthy plants, which produces healthy food."

spacerShari asked, "What do you have to do to keep your crops healthy?"

"We do several things like fertilize the soil, add compost, plant several types of crops, and plant flowers to attract good insects," said Mr. Greene "Let me explain what crop rotation is. Organic farmers plant crops in different fields each planting season. spacerSome plants need certain nutrients and other plants add nutrients, so we switch the crops' locations to balance their needs and replenish the soil."

"Look! There's a ladybug on your head, Kiesa!" Darcy giggled, pointing to the insect climbing on Kiesa's braid.

spacerAfter gently lifting the bug off, Mrs. Greene showed it to the kids. "This little ladybug does a wonderful job of helping these plants by eating the insects that would feast on our crops. Ladybugs are a type of natural pest control. Another helpful insect is the praying mantis."

"What is that big pile by the fence?" asked Jared.

"That's our compost pile," replied Mr. Greene. "Putting compost in the soil is one way to build healthy soil. It's also a wonderful way to recycle. Our compost is made from cow manure and dead plants. When these materials are mixed together, they begin to decay, or break down into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Microorganisms help the decay process. We spread this compost in our fields."

"What do the animals eat?" asked Paige. She sounded concerned about the animals nearby.

Smiling at Paige, Mrs. Greene said, "Our cows eat only organic food and produce organic milk. spacerOrganic animals are checked regularly by veterinarians and get plenty of outdoor air and space to stretch. Plus, they contribute to the ecosystem by producing manure that we compost for fertilizer."

"Did you kids know that organic farming also helps protect birds and deer and other wildlife? Also, our lakes and rivers are kept clean and so is our drinking water. That's because organic farmers don't use the harmful chemical pesticides which can pollute the environment," said Mrs. Greene.

Mr. Greene added, "To check our work, we have a certification agency send an organic farm inspector to visit us every year. She is very strict and makes sure we are farming organically. She looks at our records, fields, plants, and animals. Farms must pass yearly inspections to be Certified Organic."

spacerJack moved to the center of the group as his friends gathered around him. "I'm really glad you came to our farm to see and learn how we grow healthy animals and vegetables. But you know what? There are organic farms all over the world. Some are much larger and some are smaller. And anything that grows can be organic. I bet you didn't know that my T-shirt is made from organic cotton!"

"Huh?" Jenny wasn't sure she heard Jack right.

"Yeah. Cotton is a farm crop and is used to make clothing." Jack was enjoying this, now. His eyes squinted while pointing south. "Our neighbors, Linda and Sue, grow organic cotton over there at that organic farm. They sell their cotton to people who want to make clothing in ways that protect the environment."

Christopher felt Jack's T-shirt. "Cool!"

"Well, Jack, Mr. and Mrs. Greene, thank you for teaching us these important lessons about how organic farmers protect the soil and water and grow good crops. This is truly a special farm because of the special care it gets," Mrs. Williams said graciously.

spacerAs Jack walked back to the bus, he felt lucky to live and work on an organic farm. After all, he and his family are making a big difference in the health of the earth.