On Tuesday, March 20th, the Life Skills class took a field trip to a 300 acre USDA organically certified farm located in rural Atlanta.
The Bishop Family has been farming the 300 acres for about 30 years where they raise a variety of crops. The family grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass hay along with 20 acres of vegetables and fruits. PrairiErth Farm also raises beef cattle, free-range chickens, and heritage breed pigs. The farm also has an acre of restored native Illinois prairie.
Mrs. Anna Troyer set up this educational field trip for her class because PrairiErth Farm recently became USDA Certified. This certification requires farmer Dave Bishop and his farm hands to follow strict production, handling, and labeling standards to sell his crops to the public.
The tour was led by Farmer Dave and started in one of the farm’s many hoop houses. These buildings resemble greenhouses which the farm uses to start the growing process before the growing season. Farmer Dave showed the students the germination chamber which stays at 85 degrees to help the seeds germinate during the cold winter months.
Next, the tour continued to another hoop house where the trays of seedlings go once they are strong enough to survive at a cooler temperature. Farmer Dave explained the benefits of organic farming along with why the farm chooses to use greenhouses. He also explained the "greenhouse effect" to the students. Farmer Dave also let the students look at the potting soil used to plant the seeds and seedlings. The farm gets over 60 tons of potting soil a year.
The tour then continued to the production building which was another hoop house. However, the crops were starting to grow in rows on the ground instead of in trays on tables. Farmer Dave then led the students to look at the farm’s free range chickens and beef cattle.
Finally, the tour concluded with a trip to the processing barn. Mrs. Troyer’s good friend, Stephanie, led the students through the barn and showed them how the machine that washes the harvested vegetables works.
Junior, Hannah Baker, said her favorite part about the farm was, “All the plants in the grounds and the cows.” Overall, the students had a great time on the farm!