About 2,000 pumpkins were donated to first graders in Cascade County and the surrounding areas of Central Montana this week. It’s not only fall fun for the kids, but also a learning experience on how to grow a pumpkin.
Montana Ag Network: Pumpkins for Agricultural Education
The pumpkins were purchased by Torgerson’s LLC in Great Falls from Big Stone Colony. The 2,000 pumpkins will be delivered at specific times to elementary schools in Great Falls, Choteau and Lewistown to name a few. It’s all part of an effort to educate youth about the farming industry in their area.
“In order for everyone in Montana to understand what farming means to this state, it’s important that we get the pumpkins into the classroom. The teachers will have lesson plans drawn up…they will talk about where they’re from,” said Shane McGuire, a sales representative for Torgerson’s LLC.
The Ag Company has maintained relationships with Hutterite colonies in the region for over a decade. As Torgerson’s grew, McGuire says the colonies, like Big Stone, grew with them.
“We have a great relationship with Big Stone that goes back decades … the colonies have grown and divided and we see the boy who was the 16-year-old boy on the tractor when we first met him; is the boss now and he has children of his own and maybe grandchildren are coming.”
It’s a relationship they cherish, as colonies like Big Stone play an important role in Central Montana’s agriculture. MTN got a special insight into the growing areas of the pumpkins. There is a large plot of land south of town where the pumpkins were planted in early to late summer. Big Stone residents take care of the garden with the goal of working in the community in which he lives.
A colony member shared that most of his pumpkins have been sold. They harvested almost 4,000 pumpkins in total. The other 50% of the pumpkins were delivered to local food markets in the area such as: B. Sand Coulee. Of course, they keep something for the colony when pumpkin pie season starts. Sell most of the harvest but keep enough for the delicious dessert.
McGuire added, “…with the Hutterites and all of our producers, this is our food source. That’s what carries us. And it comforts me to know where it came from.”
Pumpkins can be a small crop in a state where beef, legumes, and grains are plentiful. It has brought together two cultures that share slight similarities and differences. It brought together mostly local youth, like those in Debbie Hartman’s class at Sacajawea Elementary School.
“…she said pumpkins can be any color. How did you know that…you’ve seen a white pumpkin before…” Hartman said while teaching a lesson to her class.
Hands-on learning is a plus, as one educator, Rae Smith, principal at Sacajawea Elementary School, said. “I think whenever you can put real objects in the hands of the students, I think they learn more from the experience. It’s not just something you look at on a computer or see in a book. They can actually touch it physically and have that experience, which I think they gain more knowledge and understanding from if it’s a real experience for them.”
The experience is more than just plucking a pumpkin from a trailer and carving it for Halloween. Teachers created lesson plans to demonstrate and introduce some big and useful concepts like girth, 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 would not be possible without the generosity of the community.
“I’m just grateful that we have partners in the community who are willing to do this for our children because I know it takes a lot of time and effort on their part to get pumpkins to every first grader in Great Falls. It’s impressive,” said Principal Smith.
McGuire finished with a biased perspective, but one that can outperform Montanan.
“It brings out the best people in the world. I mean, when you go out and spend some time farming in a rural farming community in Montana, you meet the best people this country has to offer,” he adds, “It’s just another way we’re helping the community being able to give something back.”