About 85 Big Walnut Elementary third-grade students visited Price Farms Organics in Radnor Township on May 24.

About 85 Big Walnut Elementary third-grade students visited Price Farms Organics in Radnor Township on May 24.

The day trip was made possible by fellow student Mary Gray, whose essay won an all-expenses-paid trip from the Ohio Livestock Coalition.

The coalition sponsored the statewide essay-writing contest for third-graders who answered the question, "How do Ohio farmers make sure we have good, safe food to eat?"

Students used educational materials provided by the coalition and available at www.ForYourInFarmation.com. The materials explain livestock farming and provide industry related data, such as Ohio has 75,000 farms and more than 50 percent of Ohio's land mass is used for agricultural purposes. The essays reflected what students learned about food production, from the farm to the kitchen table.

Gray said she was most surprised to learn that Ohio ranks first in the nation in producing Swiss cheese and eighth in the production of ice cream.

Tom Price participated in the program, inviting the students to visit his family farm and composting business. The 360-acre farm raises hogs and cattle, grows soybeans and hay, and composts the manure with yard waste and recyclable material like coffee grounds.

"We're getting kids three to four generations removed from the farm and agriculture," Price said, as to why he takes the time from his busy schedule to host such tours.

"It used to be you had someone close, a grandfather or uncle to visit to see how farms work. Today, people are far removed from being able to do that. There's been an effort from the agricultural community to reach out and have farmers meet with kids and let them ask questions, and they always have a lot of questions."

The students divided into smaller groups and visited several stations, including a barn housing 3-month-old pigs weighing about 90 pounds each, the composting site with mounds of various kinds of compost and an informational display by the Ohio Pork Producers Council.

Gray said she was really excited about the tour, and having raised two pigs, she was familiar with the process.

She enjoys writing and was grateful for the guidance of Doug Germann, teacher of gifted students.

"It was fun and challenging and I love writing," Gray said. "I want to thank Mr. Germann, who taught us about conjunctions and writing essays."

Teachers sent the top five essays from the school, said Mendi Priestas, Gray's classroom teacher.

"The theme fit what the students were learning about communities," Priestas said.

Germann said the students were very excited by the opportunity.

"This year we had no field trips because of budget cuts," Germann said. "So this is a wonderful perk for the whole third grade."