Why do you have to sheer sheep? Does it hurt them? What do you use the wool for?
Those were some of the questions Loran Marceau of Polo was asked during the 37th Annual Ag Day at Rochelle Township High School Friday. As he does throughout the state, Marceau gave a sheep sheering demonstrations, sheering 24 different types of sheep for approximately 900 students, ages pre-K through high school seniors. He also answers questions.
“They ask a lot of questions,” RTHS FFA Adviser Donna Page said.
According to her, the purpose of Ag Day is to show the public what the high school Ag Department is all about, as well as give local children the chance to see farm animals they probably wouldn’t see otherwise. “It’s an opportunity for us to share our passion for Ag with the community,” she said. “This is their pride and joy.”
It also gives Ag students a chance to learn something, too.
“It’s an awesome way for the kids to learn leadership responsibility,” she said, adding that she lets the students run the whole event. “I tell people I’m on auto-pilot,” she laughs.
There are approximately 130 high school students in the RTHS Ag program, including 65 active members.
One of those students is Ag Day Chairman Andrew Myers, who says his committee starts planning this the first of the year. “The challenge is getting everyone together on time and in the right order,” the senior said, adding that all the students look forward to Ag Day and want to come out and help. We’re showing kids that Ag is a good thing and it’s about more than just farming.”
“A lot of kids don’t know where milk comes from or that cheese is made with milk,” Marceau said, adding that they’re surprised to find out that some of the wool from sheep is used to make crayons.
Among the displays were tractors, animals, the greenhouse, and a toy show set up to depict an actual farm. Among the animals, there was a horse, a miniature horse, a miniature donkey, beef cattle, dairy calves, sheep, lambs, goats, piglets, ducks, chickens and a rabbit.
Like Emily Chadwick and her family, many people come out every year. On Friday, she came out with her 4-year old son Charlie whose older siblings visited earlier on school field trips.
Like many others, Chadwick said her family “likes the animals the best.”
Someone else who makes an annual visit is Lisa Good, who comes out with her small children. An RTHS graduate, Good has another reason for going, mainly that her parents, Frank and Barb Hintzsche, donate the lambs.
It was John Hintzsche, a long time RTHS Ag teacher and adviser, who came up with the amusing slogan: “Ag Day: Where Animals Get to See All Different Kinds of People.”
During a break in classes, two RTHS sophomores Darcy Maki and Macy Luxton checked out the two ducks in the greenhouse. “I came out here before when I was little,” Luxton said.
Both teens said they probably liked the baby sheep the best. The lambs and piglets were also very popular.
Which doesn’t surprise Page, who said “they are little and cute and can be petted.”
“The smaller the animal, the more popular it is,” Myers added.
Another purpose of Ag Day, Myers said, was to encourage other students to join – like junior Jessica Lechner.
Lechner said she joined this year for the first time because it enhances her interest in horticulture. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a way to get more involved in the school.”
To answer some of the questions about the sheep, Page said they tell children that getting sheered is a lot like getting a haircut.
It’s actually healthy and helpful for them, Marceau said.
And, no, they don’t get hurt.