SWCD honors winners of farm tour essay contest

SWCD honors winners of farm tour essay contest
Dave Mast

The Tom Graham Farm Tour honored its 2019 fifth-grade essay winners at the SWCD banquet. Lakeville Elementary fifth-grader Cheston Cooper, front left, and his teacher Lauren Mosher joined runner-up Olivia Miller and third-place finisher William Moan, both of Walnut Creek Elementary. Their teacher is Liz Sommers, back left.


The Holmes Soil & Water Conservation District annual meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at Carlisle Inn at Walnut Creek took on a critter theme for the annual Tom Graham 5th-Grade Farm Tour essay contest.

A bird, a mouse and a groundhog were front and center during the annual SWCD 72nd annual meeting that sees the organization honor the top-three award-winning essayists who attended the tour earlier this fall and put their experience there into words.

“This is a creative nonfiction essay, so what we really want to see is what the kids have learned and how can they make that interesting,” said presenter John Lorson, Holmes SWCD district technician. “You can write an essay about a place you’ve been and it’s all bullet points and knocking things off, but if you tell it from the perspective of a young bird, things get a lot different.”

The farm tour’s winning essay came from the mind of Lakeville Elementary fifth-grader Cheston Cooper, whose teacher is Lauren Mosher.

Cooper’s essay focused on a groundhog on the farm looking at the various strata found in the local soil.

Lorson read from Cooper’s essay: “Soil is where I live, and it is very important to the environment. There are many different types of soil. My groundhog friends and I live in the topsoil. Sometimes our burrows go down to the subsoil, but we can’t dig down into the parent material because of the bedrock.”

Cooper’s groundhog went from station to station in his essay, trying to remain hidden from the students and presenters.

“The kids head toward the barn, but I can’t follow because the farmer might see me,” Lorson continued to read. “Groundhogs like me love the crops that farmers plant, but the farmers don’t like the holes we build in the field or how many beans we eat.”

Second place was awarded to Olivia Miller of Walnut Creek, whose teacher was Liz Sommers.

Miller told her story of the farm tour from the perspective of a mouse.

“There were very interesting mouse-like comments in her story,” Lorson said.

Miller noted in her essay that a mouse doesn’t know much about the natural world, as far as lessons go, but even so she chose to have her mouse investigate the tour to see what she could learn.

“I didn’t even know what soil meant, but I decided to follow the kids,” Lorson read from her essay. He continued on, talking about how Miller’s mouse had an easy decision to make when it came to her favorite part of the tour, that being when one of the tour guides mentioned there are 75,000 tons of Swiss cheese made in Ohio each year.

Lorson continued to read from Miller’s essay: “We got the station for wildlife, which I found to be rather interesting until the guide held a chart up of a wildlife food web. I was horrified to see that I was pictured near the bottom.”

Third place went to William Moan of Walnut Creek, also a student of Sommers.

Lorson read an excerpt from Moan’s essay, telling the tale of how tragedy began this story when Moan, who put himself in the place of a bird, was flying with his teacher, who also was a bird, and she struck a tree and was unable to attend.

“I’m not sure how that reflects upon you,” Lorson said to Sommers, drawing laughter.

Lorson then returned to Moan’s story: “I just managed to get off the bus before it left. I flew down to the grass to listen, and I turned on my ears when he said he could make it rain. After all I have to drink to live. He was really using some kind of machine to spread the water evenly. It gave the same amount of rain to each surface, 2 inches to be precise. I made a pencil note to only drink from underground streams that are beneath pastures with rotational grazing.”

Ryan Graham came up to present each of the three award winners with their prizes.

In addition to the essay contest winners, the West Holmes and Hiland FFA teams also handed out awards for their respective poster contests.

Each group presented the top-three winners from their respective tours on the west and east side of the counties.

In the west, first place went to Emmy Miller of Lakeville, second place went to Mackenzee Martin of Killbuck and third place was presented to Isabella Shepler of Killbuck.

Rebecca Sprang, WHHS FFA chapter sentinel, said they were honored to be able to present the awards to this year’s winners, noting there were 36 posters received in the west. She also thanked farm owners Bill and Bev Wachtel for hosting the event for the fourth year.

“We are here to recognize and congratulate the members who participated in the poster contest,” Sprang said.

In the east, Hiland FFA members presented the first-place honor to Julia Keim of Wise while second place went to Julie Yoder of Wise and third place to Addie White of Berlin.

Hiland FFA member Thomas Miller thanked Harold Neuenschwander for opening up his farm for the tour and said the event was a valuable tool for fifth-graders to learn about soil conservation, wildlife, farming practices, forestry, water quality and farm safety.

“FFA members voted on the posters and took into account the quality, creativity and information presented on each poster,” Miller said.

The Tom Graham Farm Tour continues to provide an opportunity for the SWCD to educate and inform today’s youth on the important role agriculture and conservation play in the county.

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