Each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation selects several counties across the country to win its County Activities of Excellence (CAE) awards. The award recognizes county Farm Bureaus for unique, volunteer-driven programming.
This year, Elkhart County Farm Bureau is among the winners and will be honored at the 2018 AFBF convention for its “Cowboy Ethics” program for school children.
The program is coordinated by volunteer Dwight Moudy and Elkhart County Farm Bureau leadership and has been an active program in that area for nearly five years.
“I learned that James Owen, a retired Wall Street professional, had created a program based on years of research that focuses on what he called ‘The Code of the West,’” explained Moudy. “Knowing that children are often fascinated by stories of cowboys, we created a local program with that theme to teach youth about principles, values and self-sufficiency.”
With Elkhart County Farm Bureau’s support, Moudy coordinates 25 elementary and middle school classes in the county each year. But the program’s reach continues to grow.
“All told, we will have about 95 classes in the area this year,” estimated Moudy. “Neighboring counties are adapting the program for their children.”
But the program doesn’t stop with ethics. Elkhart County Farm Bureau leadership and volunteers also use the time in the classroom to teach students about agriculture, because studying ranch life can lead to an understanding of farming and agriculture.
“We speak to Elkhart Community School students who have no farming background to teach them about farming and to show them how important math and science are in our line of work,” explained Bert Egging, Elkhart County Farm Bureau president.
As Egging explained, many of the children seem surprised to hear the farmers speaking about the math involved in milk production or the science of caring for animals.
“Over the years, we’ve created a lot of opportunities for the kids to experience farming without leaving school grounds,” explained Egging. “We bring baby farm animals to the school, and this year we are hoping to help them grow vegetables that they can harvest at the end of the year. The farming side of the program is mostly about teaching them where their food comes from.”
Elkhart County Farm Bureau competed against county Farm Bureaus across the country for the annual award. As the only Indiana winner, it joins winners from 11 other states. Submissions were grouped by membership size. Cowboy Ethics won in the 5,000 and more member group, the largest single-county award grouping. Elkhart County Farm Bureau will be recognized and will exhibit its program during AFBF’s 99th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in January.