Farm unit study on your wish list for homeschooling or the classroom? I had the opportunity to spend a week in Kansas visiting a variety of farms to learn more about where food comes from. I took some time to ask the farmers what they would like kids to know about where their food comes from. Here are a few of the highlights from the experience. I have also included some videos for you to help you learn more from this farm unit study. (Free printable farm unit study at the bottom of this post.)
What can you learn about farms?
**Disclaimer – I was paid to share more about Kansas farming. All opinions shared here are 100% my own.
Who can be a farmer?
When most people picture farmers, they picture a man on a tractor or a man with a variety of animals. Anyone can be a farmer and we had the opportunity to see that when we went on our tours. We had the honor of spending time with a woman who is running a very successful farm. When teaching your children about farms and where their food comes from, let them have fun by designing the kind of farmer they would be. You will find a coloring page in this printable to design your own farmer as well as an “if I were a farmer” page to write about what kind of farmer they might be.
It can also help to point out that farmers aren’t only men. For many farms, it is a family business. Women run farms, children help with tasks, and older men help teach a new generation about farming. Spending some time teaching your children that farmers can come in all shapes and sizes can help them to understand who is preparing their food and also see themselves as a farmer one day.
Things I didn’t know about farmers:
- Farmers have to know a variety of skills in order to run a successful farm! A farmer may need to know a variety of tasks including equipment repair, crop moisture, safe fertilizing, pest prevention, and so much more!
- Many farmers will be born into the trade and follow generations before them working a farm.
- Some farmers will farm only one crop while others will rotate multiple crops.
- Not all farmers have cows or pigs. On many farms the farmer will focus only on the crop they are interested in and not add in animals.
What is a dairy farm?
A dairy farm is a farm that is focused on producing dairy products for the public. They will keep only cows (Female cattle who can reproduce) on the farm for most dairy farms. Food products such as butter, milk, and cheese find their start on this farm. Dairy farmers follow extensive regulations to make sure they are caring for their animals and providing you with a quality product. Here are a few things you can teach your children about dairy farms.
How does a dairy farm work?
Farmers will raise a dairy cow from a calf. When she is old enough the farmer will breed the cow. (Some use traditional breeding practices while others will use artificial insemination.) When the cow gives birth it will spend the first 48 hours with the mom. After that, she will be separated from her calf and will be milked by the farmers 2-3 times a day. (Don’t worry about the mom or the calf though. Dairy cows are not terribly interested in being moms.) A dairy cow will live her life on the farm until she has gotten old enough to no longer breed and produce milk at which point she will most likely be sent to a feedlot.
How would you describe a dairy farm?
The dairy farm we visited was clean and filled with open spaces for cows to move around and graze. They had the ability to rotate through a covered barn area or move out into the fields to graze at their will. There were fences surrounding the cow pasture but those were there to protect the cows from escaping and from predators. There were a few buildings that were clean and used for milking. The average cow spends only 8-10 minutes in the milking building each time and spends the rest of its time in the pasture.
What are some common dairy farm terms?
A calf is a baby produced by a dairy cow. A cow is a female dairy cow that has given birth. A heifer is a female cow that has not given birth. The udder is the area where the milk is stored. Teats are what are milked to produce milk.
What is a Pig Farm?
Pig farming is the care and feeding of pigs that will be used for food products. Pig farmers follow a long list of safety protocols to make sure that pigs are well cared for. The quality of care a pig receives will have a direct relationship to the product they create. These farmers will work hard to make sure that their pigs are doing well. Here are a few questions your kids might ask about pig farming.
What does a pig farmer do?
On any given day a pig farmer may have a variety of tasks they are in charge of. Pig farmers are constantly working with nutritionists to make sure the pigs are receiving the right balance of food. They will use this information to make sure all pigs in their care are well-fed with the proper nutritional balance. Pig farmers will also track the breeding, pregnancy stages, and weight of pigs in their care. These pigs will eventually be moved to trucks to head to a processing plant when they are ready to be finished.
What do pigs eat?
Pigs will eat a custom blend of soybeans, corn, and other nutritional options. Pig farmers will consult with nutritionists to make sure the feed is proper for the age and health of the pig. Some farmers will add in natural food options such as oregano to help fight infection and keep pigs healthier.
What are some common pig terms?
Gilts and Sows are female pigs. Boars and barrows are male pigs. A litter is a group of newly born pigs. Farrowing is the process of a pig giving birth.
What is a feedlot?
A feedlot is a place cattle are sent to put on weight before being processed for meat. Cattle will be sent to a feedlot at roughly 400 pounds and will spend time on a feedlot putting on weight. They will get time both in a field and in large spacious pens being fed nutritious diets with the goal of putting on weight. One thing that amazed me when visiting a feedlot is how quiet it was. They say happy cattle are quiet cattle and the birds were honestly louder than the cattle were. The man running the feedlot said he wants his cattle to have one bad day in their entire lives and that is the day they are processed for meat production.
How long are cattle on a feedlot?
Cattle are on a feedlot until they reach a desired weight for processing. The time they spend on a lot can depend on the weight they arrive at. Cattle can stay on feedlots for as little as ninety days or up to 300 days depending on weight gain and the season.
What are cattle fed?
Cattle on a feedlot are fed a mix of hay and a variety of other items that are meant to keep them healthy and put on weight.
Why are there cowboys on horses at a feedlot?
While we were on the feedlot we saw men on horses in the feedlot with the cattle. When I asked their purpose, I was impressed by them. They ride through the feedlots checking cattle for any sign of injury or sickness. If there is any sign of sickness or injury the cowboys will remove only the cattle that is unwell and take them to be treated. It’s really quite an impressive process!
Why do farmers grow soybeans? .
Soybeans are a very popular crop in Kansas. They have a variety of purposes and help meet a series of needs. Soybeans can be used in a variety of ways and sold to other farmers as well. Soybeans can be used in feed for animals, a variety of foods, and even in non-food items. They also add needed nitrogen back to the soil for future crops! Talk about a powerful crop to grow!
What do farmers grow soybeans for?
Soybeans are grown for use in feed for cows and pigs. Their oil can be harvested as well. Soybeans can also be used for soy milk, tofu, and a variety of other food items. Because of its high protein count, farmers love this crop for their animals. Roughly 70% of soybeans are grown for animal feed.
Why do farmers rotate corn and soybean crops?
Because of the nitrogen in soybeans, farmers can use less nitrogen to treat their soil. Rotating crops is a natural way to cut down on added nitrogen.
Get your free printable preschool farm unit study!
These faqs will be updated consistently with questions from my readers. (Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Non-organic crops will avoid the use of chemicals, pesticides, and GMO’s. Crops that are grown using organic methods will use alternative growing methods such as crop rotation and ongoing planting to avoid the use of chemical intervention.
Farmers work to overcome a variety of challenges including the weather, supply chain issues, sickness, public perception, and time constraints. Farms are constantly working to overcome things that will keep them from getting their crops to harvest and into the hands of consumers.
Farmers produce food for the general population. Farmers will work tirelessly to make sure that consumers receive the food items they need whether from crops or animal farming.
Farmers will often tell you they are asset-rich and cash-poor. This is because they invest their profit back into their fields, animals, and equipment to prepare for the next season.
Farmers are currently facing issues with the supply chain because of a lack of workers in a variety of trades that benefit farmers. Encourage your children to pursue STEM careers. Engineers, Scientists, and Animal Dieticians are all needed to help farmers continue to be effective. You can also purchase directly from farmers when possible instead of via traditional stores.
Farmers create jobs, produce products the community needs, and help boost the value of the overall economy in the areas they serve.