Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

After studying agriculture commodities Tuesday as part of the Field to Fork field day for fifth-graders, Ally Hansell finally understood how her aunt’s ranch got its name.

During a lesson on the different breeds of cattle raised by ranchers, Ally learned that the cattle breed most commonly raised in the U.S., which can be black and sometimes red, is Angus. The animals are medium-framed and usually have a good disposition, Leticia Henderson, Oregon State University Extension livestock and natural resources agent told her first group of students Tuesday morning as the second day of the two-day event got under way.

That explanation caused Alley to announce to her classmates: “Now I know why my aunt’s ranch is called Morris Angus Ranch.

“Every single day after school we go to my aunt’s house and feed the cows,” she said while learning about Oregon’s top 10 agriculture commodities.

Henderson told students that throughout the state, greenhouse and nursery products are the top crop at this time. Cattle and calves, which had been No. 1 for the past two years, has slipped to second place, with hay coming in at third.

Although there are no large dairy farms remaining in Baker County, milk is the fourth largest commodity, statewide, she said. Likewise, grass seed, which is grown sparsely in Baker County but more widely in Union County, is the state’s fifth largest agriculture commodity, followed by potatoes, wheat, pears, grapes and onions.

Ally wasn’t the only one who came away from the session with new information.

“I didn’t know crayons came from beef cattle,” said Rance Quercia.

And his classmate, Benjamin Ashton, went even further saying everything presented in the class was new to him.

“I knew almost nothing,” he said.

Henderson wowed her students with other fun facts:

• From the body of a 1,000 pound steer, 400 pounds is consumed as beef. Still 99 percent of the animal, such as gelatin from the bones, plasma from blood, hooves and horns and hair, is put to use producing edible by-products including yogurt, marshmallows and gummy candies and inedible by-products such as cosmetics, detergents and crayons.

• One pound of wool can produce 10 miles of yarn and there are 150 yards of wool yarn inside a baseball.

• Dollar bills are made of cotton. Henderson told the students that a 600-pound bale of cotton would produce 300,000 $1 bills.

• Cotton is not produced in Oregon because of the state’s short growing season. It takes more than 200 days of warm weather to produce cotton, Henderson said.

• There are 60 pounds of wheat in a bushel and it is produced at a rate of about 80 to 100 bushels an acre (about the size of a football field).

Students also learned about soil conservation practices in class taught by Kara Miller. Eugene Hawes explained how farmers use technology to harvest their crops. And Holly Kerns and Marcie Osborn explained the important role water plays in producing food to feed the world.

A group led by Kara Jenkins, OSU Extension 4-H educator, planted seeds tucked inside cotton balls one by one in the fingers and thumb of a clear plastic glove as part of an experiment to learn whether plants need sunlight, water, soil and plenty of space to grow and thrive.

See more in the May 9, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.