Pike County cattleman, his cows take tour live

Pike County cattleman Joe Landolt shows calves in his shed to third graders joining a live virtual tour in this computer monitor screenshot. Pike-Scott Ag in the Classroom hosted the tour at two schools. (Photo by Kay Shipman)

Two third-grade classes couldn’t go to Joe Landolt’s beef farm near Pittsfield, so the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau director used technology to bring his calves to them.

Using a cell phone to send live images, Landolt and his father-in-law, Jim Swartz, took Tracey Allen’s third graders at Pikeland Community School and Amber Sichting’s third graders at Winchester Elementary School into their cattle shed. Pike-Scott Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick, acting as master of ceremony, directed questions from the students in separate counties.

Landolt described what students saw the calves eating and explained they weighed as much as a refrigerator when first put into the shed and would be as heavy as a small car when they’re sent to be made into hamburger.

“At this point, their lives revolve around eating,” the farmer told his student audience.

A quick view of a water trough and a couple of goldfish captured the kids’ attention. Landolt explained the fish help keep the tank and water clean by eating algae and moss. He assured a girl who worried about the fish being eaten that the cows only want a drink and the fish swim deeper when the cattle are around.

Mainly the students asked about the cattle, such as how long they live, how many are on the farm and whether they get out of the shed. “If they get out of the shed, it’s a bad day,” Landolt replied with a smile.

A father of a third-grade son, Landolt had an idea about the questions he might get. “I made my third grader rehearse with me, so I was prepared,” the farmer said. “These kids are the future, and we need to share agriculture with them.”

As for Landolt’s first live virtual tour? “I really enjoyed myself,” he said, adding Tuesday’s pounding rain would have made a muddy in-person tour.

Pikeland Elementary’s Allen appreciated the virtual farm tour: “These types of Zoom trips have been great this year. We’ve done a few others, and they have opened up opportunities for our students that they wouldn’t normally get.”

To prepare, Allen’s students worked on Ag in the Classroom’s (AITC) beef Ag Mag and focused on cattle vocabulary “in hopes that they would have a better understanding of what Mr. Landolt was talking about,” the teacher said. To get further value from the farm tour, Allen connected Landolt’s farm to a social studies topic of communities and the many farms in their rural community.

The third grade teacher praised Pike-Scott AITC for providing teachers with ag resources and activities. Because in-person presentations weren’t possible, Allen took advantage of a grant to buy classroom supplies and AITC ideas. “That’s been a valuable way to be sure our students are still learning the material without having to come up with the ideas by ourselves,” she said.

All Pikeland Elementary field trips were canceled because too many buses would have been needed to meet social distance guidelines for transporting students.

Even before the pandemic, “field trips have always been limited for our classes because of the cost of gas and paying a bus driver,” she continued. “We are encouraged to go on field trips within walking distance, which limits us a lot.”

Allen typically applies for grant money for a field trip. ”That’s not to say we aren’t allowed to do field trips, but they are very limited due to resources,” she added.

Landolt encouraged his fellow farmers to consider volunteering for a live virtual tour if they have the cellular availability. “Farmers should be open minded to work with teachers,” he said. The farmer added a wish that more teachers and farmers would take advantage of the opportunity “and share ag.”