Monica Burkner 2015-10-29 01:38:43
Every year, California’s San Joaquin County Ag Commissioner, in partnership with the local Farm Bureau, area schools, and local ag community, organizes AgVenture events in several locations in the county. This ag-based field trip is attended by third grade students and is intended to increase their understanding and knowledge of agriculture. For the past several years, I have accompanied an AIM model GH9000 grape harvester at the Lodi AgVenture. One of our customers, Kautz Farms, brings an entire grape harvesting setup—the harvester, a tractor pulling a gondola, and a semi-truck. I get to explain what the harvester is and how it works. I had to come up with an explanation that third graders would understand. Here’s a peek at how it goes. When talking to third graders about a grape harvester, it’s very effective to (1) wear grape earrings, (2) wear purple, (3) apply purple eyeliner, and (4) use a portable headset microphone and speaker! Before the kids arrive, I put up some large photos of the machine in action and an overhead view of the machine at the kids’ eye level. After the kids arrive, I begin by asking if anyone knows what this machine is and what it does. “Corn harvester!” “Cherry picker!” “Monster truck!” “Apple harvester!” “Car wash?” I usually get the right answer eventually—“ Grape harvester!”—because many local kids have parents who work in the grape industry. My goal is to get the children thinking about the grape harvest in our area: “What time of day is harvesting done?” “Why are grapes an important crop?” I give a simple explanation of how the machine works. I tell them that the grape harvest season is the end of summer and early fall, when they return to school, and that harvesting happens at night, when they are in bed, because that keeps the fruit cool and protects it from the sun, and that there are 100,000 acres, or the equivalent of 100,000 football fields, of grapevines in the Lodi area. To explain how the grape harvester works, I hold my arms up to look like the letter “T” and say, “If I were a grape vine, I would look like a ‘T,’ and I would be holding hands with other grape vines all in a row. Grapes would be growing on the undersides of our arms, and when the machine passes over us, it shakes our bellies, and all the ripe grapes fall onto a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt is similar to the ones that you see in the grocery store, and it carries the grapes to the big rolling bin—the gondola. When the gondola is full, it dumps the grapes into a big semitruck, and when the semi-truck is full, it takes all the grapes to the processor where the grapes are used make grape juice and adult beverages.” These kids are savvy, because someone will always say, “You mean like wine? My mom and dad drink wine!” I also tell them that fresh whole grapes, called table grapes, like the ones in their lunch boxes, are not picked by a machine like this one. Those are all picked by hand, and it’s a lot of work.” Then come the questions: “How do you drive it?” I point to the ladder and then to the driver’s seat and explain that it has a steering wheel and controls just like a car. “How much does it weigh?” 22,000 pounds, which is 11 tons, or the equivalent of about 12 elephants. “How much does it cost?” $350,000 or about as much as a nice house! Other third grade relatable factoids are: • The machine harvests about one acre, or the equivalent of a football field, every hour. • The harvester needs just 30 minutes to fill a gondola. • Ead of 240 third graders or six elephants! • The grapes in one gondola load can make 5,000 bottles of wine, or enough juice to fill 1,000 one-gallon milk jugs. Monica Burkner is the daughter of ASABE Fellow Paul Burkner, co-founder of Ag Industrial Manufacturing (AIM). She is actively involved in AIM and in the local agricultural community in Lodi, Calif., USA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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