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Montana Ag Network: Pumpkins for agriculture education

Montana Ag Network: Pumpkins for agriculture education
Pumpkin in class
Posted at 8:23 AM, Oct 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-19 12:55:12-04

About 2,000 pumpkins were donated to first-graders across Cascade County and surrounding Central Montana areas this week. Not only is it fall fun for the kids but a learning experience about how to grow a pumpkin.

Montana Ag Network: Pumpkins for agriculture education

The pumpkins were purchased by Torgerson’s LLC in Great Falls from Big Stone Colony. The 2,000 pumpkins are delivered by specific time slots to elementary schools in Great Falls, Choteau, and Lewistown to name a few. It is all part of an effort to educate the youth on agricultural industries in their area.

“For anybody in Montana to understand what agriculture does for this state, you know, it's important we get the pumpkins into the classrooms. The teachers will have lessons plans designed… they'll talk about where they come from,” said Shane McGuire, a sales representative from Torgerson’s LLC.

The ag company has created a relationship with Hutterite colonies in the area for over a decade. As Torgerson’s grew, McGuire says the colonies like Big Stone have grown with them.

“We've got a great relationship with Big Stone that goes back decades… the colonies have grown and split and we get to see the kid that was the 16-year-old kid on the tractor the first time we met him; is now the boss, and he has children of his own and maybe grandchildren coming.”

Montana Ag Network: Pumpkins for agriculture education

It’s a relationship that they value as colonies like Big Stone play a vital role in the agriculture economy of Central Montana. MTN received a special look into where the pumpkins were grown. South of town is a large plot of land where the pumpkins were planted in the early to late summer. Big Stone residents tend to the garden with a goal in mind of working within the community it resides in.

One colony member shared that most of its pumpkins were sold. They harvested almost 4,000 total pumpkins. The other 50% of the pumpkins were delivered to local grocery markets in the area like one in Sand Coulee. Of course, they keep some for the colony as pumpkin pie season rolls around. Selling a majority of the crop yet keeping enough for the delectable dessert.

McGuire added, “…on the Hutterites and all of our producers, this is our food source. This is what sustains us. And it's comforting to me to know where it comes from.”

Pumpkins may be a small crop in a state plentiful in beef, pulse, and cereal crops. It’s brought together two cultures that have slight similarities and differences. It most importantly brought together youth in the area, like the ones in Debbie Hartman’s class at Sacajawea Elementary School.

“…she said pumpkins can be all different colors. How did you know that… You've seen a white pumpkin before…” Hartman said as she taught a lesson to her class.

Hands-on learning is a plus as an educator said Rae Smith, Principal at Sacajawea Elementary School. “I think whenever you can put real objects in the hands of students, I think they learn more from that experience. It's not just something you look at on the computer or see in a book. They actually physically can touch it and have that experience, which I think they gain greater knowledge and understanding when we when it's a real-life experience for them.”

Pumpkin in class

The experience is more than picking a pumpkin out of a trailer and carving it for Halloween. The teachers created lesson plans to demonstrate and introduce some big and useful terms like, circumference, volume, and weight. Smith said that when these students visit a pumpkin patch and corn maze, they understand the premise behind the fun fall events.

This experience wouldn’t be possible without the community’s generosity.

“I just am thankful that we have community partners that are willing to do this for our kids, because I know that it takes a lot of time and effort on their part to deliver pumpkins to every first-grade student in Great Falls. It's impressive,” said Principal Smith.

McGuire rounded off with a biased perspective, but one that Montanan’s can get behind.

“It produces the best people in the world. I mean, if you go out and you spend some time in farming in a rural farm community in Montana, you meet the best people that this country has to offer,” adding, “it's just one more way we can give back to the community.”