Kids & Kows event links students to agriculture

Peach was not feeling particularly polite Wednesday.

In front of an audience of dozens of Mesilla Park Elementary School students, the 800-pound dairy cow flicked her foot-long tongue straight into her right nostril.

The students, however, were thrilled with this breach of conduct, squealing in their seats in the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum dairy barn as Cody Lightfoot explained how to make milk.

Peach is milked three times a day and eats more than 60 pounds of food daily, Lightfoot, with Southwest Dairy Farmers, told the crowd.

“That’s like eating two kindergartners a day,” he said to laughs. “Or think how many of you she’ll eat.”

About 500 students visited the museum Wednesday for the county’s annual Kids & Kows & More Days, getting a front-row seat to the grit and glory of agriculture.

The program has offered free field trips to fourth-grade students across Doña Ana County for 13 years. This year, 1,500 students are learning about cotton, onions, chile, dairy and more during the morning visit.

“We’ve got to educate the students about agriculture,” Kids & Kows coordinator Teresa Dean said. “A lot of times these students don’t realize where food and fibers come from.”

The Doña Ana County Extension office ensures the trip is free to schools, paying for buses and offering free admission. Local business agencies provided volunteer workshop instructors, donations and even milk for the students to drink.

“It’s important for them to learn about what puts food on a lot of their plates and how agriculture is important to the economy of New Mexico,” Mesilla Park teacher Darci Deschamps said. Her students have attended Kids & Kows & More every year for several years.

Mesilla Park fourth-grader, 11-year-old Fatima Palomares, left a presentation on cotton with a small bunch of soft, clean cotton fiber in her hands.

“It’s good because I like learning a lot,” she said of Kids & Kows. “I learned about cotton makes clothes and agriculture is everywhere.”

Back in the dairy barn, Lightfoot demonstrated how Peach is milked. The children “ooo” and “ahh” as a clear tank filled up with her milk.

“Kids are so far removed from agriculture,” Lightfoot said as the students headed to their next station. “… You ask these kids where their milk comes from and they’ll say, ‘The store’ or ‘Walmart.’ We just have to keep them involved.”