Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Even in rural Minnesota, ag knowledge sometimes lacking October 25, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Shepherd’s Way Farms, rural Nerstrand. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. Shown here for illustration only.


ARE WE A GENERATION away from losing the farm? Not in the literal sense. But in the sense of understanding agriculture.

Do you know, do your children know, do your grandchildren know the sources of ingredients in food and other products?

A recent test shows me that, even here in rural Minnesota some 50 miles south of Minneapolis, people are not particularly knowledgeable. Granted, this was no scientific study. And it was limited in scope. But results were enough to make me realize that we could do a better job of educating our young people about agriculture. Even those who live in a city like Faribault surrounded by corn and soybean fields.


A fest-goer attempts to match animals and plants to products I set out.


How did I reach this conclusion? Well, I pulled together several farm-themed matching and other games for a recent kids’ fall fest at my church. One of those required players to match farm animals and plants to five products. Only one boy successfully completed the task as did some, but not all, adults.


Registered Holsteins photographed at a Faribault area farm. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I laid pictures of the following on a table: cows, sheep, pigs, corn and soybeans.

Then I set out a can of cranberry sauce, a box of Velveeta cheese, a brush, a bottle of Thousand Island salad dressing and a wool blanket.

The goal was to match the image and product.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from Shepherd’s Way Farms.


As you might guess, the sheep and blanket, cows and cheese proved easy matches.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of a cornfield.


But not the other three. Can you figure it out? I’ll help. The first ingredient on the dressing label is soybean oil. The second ingredient on the cranberry label is high fructose corn syrup. That leaves the brush. Some brush bristles are made from pig hair.

I expected the game might challenge little kids too young to understand what comes from where or what ingredients are in our food. But I was surprised by mid to upper elementary kids and adults who got the matches wrong.

Does it matter? I believe so. Our kids and grandkids, even us adults, need to be knowledgeable about food and product sources. We need to understand that our food and more doesn’t just come from the store or some online source. It comes from the land, directly or indirectly, grown or raised by farmers. When we realize that, we begin to value and appreciate rather than simply consume.


In the window of Ruf Acres Market in historic downtown Faribault, egg cartons promoting eggs from Graise Farm. The eggs are sold at this market and elsewhere in the area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


ASIDE FROM THIS EXPERIENCE, I’ve seen strong efforts locally to educate consumers about agriculture. Leading the way in my community is Tiffany Tripp of Graise Farm. She and her husband raise grass-fed animals in a sustainable environment, according to their farm website. I’ve seen Tiffany out and about selling and promoting locally-grown/raised. She is currently co-coordinating efforts to market locally-grown/raised/sourced products under a Cannon Valley Grown label. What a great idea. I love her enthusiasm and that of others who recognize the value of what is grown and raised right here in southeastern Minnesota.


© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


25 Responses to “Even in rural Minnesota, ag knowledge sometimes lacking”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Your “test” may not have qualified as a ‘scientific study’, but the results were not surprising. Many of our urban youngsters (especially) believe that, somehow, that their food source is the local grocery store (pork is from a hog/pig??? Really???)!
    I do have to say, though, that your match-ups were a tad tricky and adults are not great readers these days!

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I love the matching game and am not surprised that there were not more correct matches. The obvious connections were there but the more subtle ones would have been more difficult for kids . The adults—well—that is a bit surprising. But I do love the game and your effort to educate. I do see a lot more education about food and the source these days than when I was growing up so I hope we are making progress.

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    This is an important post, Audrey. By understanding just where our foods come from, often leads us to understand how the agricultural industry is also the reason why we are looking at one of the most unhealthy populations in the world. The movement of non-GMO, organic, locally-grown/raised/sourced is the result of an awakening to understanding of how the agricultural revolution has taken us in the wrong direction. Understanding the impact of how we raise our food and where it comes from is what can change the direction of the health of our people.

    Just mentioning that brush piqued my attention too! Natural brush bristles and fibers are so much better and longer lasting than the synthetics – which also pollute our environment. I have to look harder for good, natural brushes for the jobs I do.

    I loved this post, Audrey. Absolutely a subject worth putting out there!!

  4. I was lucky to grow up on and around farms. There are some things I cannot say to people about farm life because it grosses them out. For me I did not know it was gross or inappropriate talk because it was my way of life. My city smarts back then were lacking though, especially navigating a big city like Minneapolis. I think I have a good balance now though in living in the city. I think it is important to know where your food comes from though. Thank a Farmer for the food you purchase in the store and place on your table for meal time! Great Educational Post Today. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Leave it to you Audrey to come up with a clever game to help educate children about agriculture and where our food (and products) come from 🙂

  6. Great post. Your results are not surprising.

  7. Kate here from Sweet Ridge Sisters. Loved this post! Interesting thing about your very clever game is that it highlights many of the huge culture changes in agriculture. I have worked in the world of agriculture for many years and still had to think to sort out the high fructose corn syrup/cranberry can connection. Because the world of agribusiness has become so complex and science based, there is not a natural connection between those fields of soybeans and the end result Thousand Island dressing. This is just one part of the problems the modern agricultural system faces. I loved your quiz though! I’m going to be thinking about that for awhile.

  8. Bella Says:

    A simple game provides insights into our lack of agriculture knowledge especially from those not living on a farm. So many of us not having these personal experiences have a hard time relating to exactly where our food comes from and what is in it as it as being processed and sold commercially. Ignorance is common on all levels really among the large population. i admire your effort to make a small difference educating at the local level. .

    • I enjoyed coming up with this game. Additionally, I pulled a bunch of toy animals from the toybox and asked kids to choose and place the farm animals inside a fence. They did well on that. I also set out a farm-themed wooden puzzle, a farm animal matching game and a jar of candy corn (guess how many and win the candy). It was fun to come up with these and watch kids and adults enjoy.

  9. OOOOOOOOOOOO, the lamb. Such a sweet soul. xx

  10. Valerie Says:

    Great quiz…I actually got them right but I had to think! Great idea to set this up for kids and adults to enjoy.

  11. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow, I hate to admit that I would have had to read the label to match the salad dressing to the soybeans

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