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Portage students get first-hand farm experience

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A group of students was able to get hands-on knowledge of how a local farm operates on Wednesday.

The Portage FFA held Food for America at Gumz Farms to show fourth and fifth graders what goes on at farms. Students from the Portage Area School District spent the day on the farm and got to learn about agriculture to see where there food comes from.

Gumz Farms is a fourth-generation, family-owned farm off of County Road O in Endeavor. The farm produces red potatoes, onions, peppermint, spearmint, carrots, field corn and soybeans.

Brenna Babcock is an Ag teacher for the Portage Community school district. She teaches at Bartels Middle School and is also a Portage FFA advisor.

“Food for America is an opportunity for students to get first-hand experience at a local farm and learn more about agriculture,” Babcock said. “The material they will learn today is all from the students.”

Babcock explained that the Portage Middle and High School students who are Portage FFA members came up with the curriculum for the students on Wednesday.

“The students came up with the lessons and will be leading the younger students today,” Babcock said.

There were eight stations, including onions, potatoes and petting zoo, throughout the farm that students would go for 10-15 minute lesson about an aspect of the farm.

Babcock said that in the past, the event had been just for fourth grade students in the Portage Area School District, but due to COVID-19 there were fifth graders also at Gumz Farms.

There were so many students that the day was broken into two sections. One group of three buses arrived at Gumz Farm in the morning and a second group arrived in the afternoon.

Linda Gumz was stationed at the onion station where fourth graders learned about the equipment used for harvesting and packaging the onions.

“Of course it smells like onions, it’s an onion farm,” Gumz told the group of students as they walked into a garage full of harvesting equipment where she explained the process of harvesting onions.

Student then took a short walk inside to see how the onions were packaged. They got a front row seat at seeing the equipment packaging 50-lb bags of onions.

“It is really important for these students get a look at how their food is made,” Josh Capodarco said. “This is a way they get to see their neighbors and others in the community doing the work to feed our area, state and country.

Capodarco is an Ag teacher at Portage High School and is a Portage FFA advisor. He said Gumz Farms is great for the day because it allows students to see everything that makes a farm work, from the buildings to the people and the food products.

“There’s a lot of space here and a lot for the kids to check out,” Capodarco said. “This really is a great place for this because the kids get to see every single step in the food process but pulling the plant from the ground.”

Capocardco said one of the interesting things about the farm is that they distill mint into mint oil.

There was a student station devoted to mint distilling, turning the mint plant into mint oil, at Gumz Farm led by Brock Ashley. Ashley explained to the fourth graders how the harvested mint comes to the farm in a truck and is processed.

Ashley said Gumz Farms processes spearmint and peppermint to make their mint oil.

Gumz Farms in owned by brothers Richard and Roderick Gumz. Richard Gumz said the students would be learning a lot on the farm and a lot about safety on a farm.

“It’s really good seeing all the kids out here today and it’s great weather,” Richard Gumz said. “There’s less farmers than there used to be so for these kids to get this hands-on knowledge is great.”

This was the first year Gumz Farms was chosen by the Portage FFA. Babcock said in the past the event was held at an area dairy farm. Richard Gumz said if everything went well on Wednesday he would consider holding the event again in the future.

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