Students receive agriculture tips

SHADE GAP – Rick Ruppert, brandishing a bag of cow feed, told a group of central Pennsylvania 4-H students that putting that feed together was much like baking a cake.

Ruppert, district sales manager for ADM Alliance Nutrition, said that each type of fodder requires different measures of proteins, grains and other ingredients, much like following a recipe.

He told the students, a cluster of about 25, that the people putting together animal feed examine the nutrition facts, like the students themselves might do at a restaurant.

“This is no different than looking at a Big Mac at McDonald’s,” Ruppert said.

Ruppert was one of five presenters during the first leg of this years’ A.B. Ross Leadership Program, hosted in Huntingdon County for about 120 4-H students from seven counties: Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon and Mifflin. The students ranged in age from seventh to 12th grades.

The program is sponsored by Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, who said it is key that kids get a closer look at the state’s biggest industry.

“We think it’s important to work with the youth to get them as well-prepared as we can,” Eichelberger said.

In its third year, the program’s attendance has swelled, Eichelberger said, from about 40 students last year as word spreads.

The daylong program took the kids to Shade Gap Farm Supply for much of the morning, where they learned about animal nutrition, the inspection of animal feed and were able to sample some of the types offered at the mill for themselves.

The activity, which was developed by the Penn State Cooperative Extension, will allow the students to take the different types of feed back to their respective 4-H programs to help develop better nutrition for the animals they work with.

The Penn State Cooperative Extension coordinates many of the speakers and events, Eichelberger said. He said it is extremely beneficial to the students to realize that they have a major resource of agricultural expertise right in their back yards at Penn State.

After lunch, the students were taken to the Hawbaker Family Dairy, also in Shade Gap, where they learned more about animal welfare. Stations included a look at milk quality control and an examination of equine health, to help ensure horses are adequately nourished.

Later in the afternoon, the students engaged in a debate on a model Senate farm bill and then wrapped up the day with a Q&A with Eichelberger.

Eichelberger said that the 4-H students who work on family farms will likely take something new back to their parents’ businesses. He said that one girl who attended in a previous year helped her father set up new water gutters on their barns to help conserve water.

Many farmers working, he said, may not have access to or interest in new farming techniques, making the students the bridge.

This exemplifies the ideas of A.B. Ross, after whom the program is named, he said. And, Eichelberger said, there’s always more learning to be done for the adults in attendance, too.

“I always learn something at these, too,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.