Springbrook Adventure 2010
What will the elementary classroom look like in the future?
Will it be all technology? While computers, smartboards, internet, and podcasts do play a vital role in today’s education, can we afford to leave behind the outdoor classroom?

On May 6th and 7th the Lenox Sixth Grade attended class in the great outdoors at the exceptional Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. There is so much to observe and learn at the CEC, we couldn’t
possibly absorb it all, but we did expand rapidly our knowledge of what our natural environment has to offer. The twenty-six students and six adults in attendance became naturalists learning about the flora and fauna of Iowa. We
observed a multitude of wildlife from tiny aquatic life captured in nets to white-tailed deer that make the state park their abode. Our learning centered around the watershed and included: water quality testing, aquatic life, observation hike, fishing, kayaking, archery, habitat capacity, bird-banding and orienteering. “I survived Killer Hill” was the rallying cry after
catching our breath from the challenging uphill climb. Springbrook State Park is situated along the scenic Raccoon River Valley and is quite wooded and rugged. Glaciers played a monumental role in shaping the land of the area, since the last glacier to appear in that part of the state ended its southerly migration there, and the runoff from its melting formed the streams, rivers, and hills of the area. With the incredibly wet and cool spring we’ve been experiencing in 2010, we considered ourselves fortunate to attend the CEC during somewhat of a “dry spell” in the weather. This was the thirteenth year for Mr. Smith and myself to take a class to Springbrook, making for a total of over 400 attendees from Lenox enriched by the experience. My sincere gratitude for funding this adventurous learning, year after year, is extended to Taylor County Soil and Water Conservation Board, Taylor County Farm Bureau and Taylor County Ringnecks. Without their generous support this venture would not be possible.
Mary Beaman, Lenox Sixth Grade Teacher

The Southern Iowa Sustainable Livestock Project

In 1994 a group of public minded citizens with a vision for the future created an organization that would help beginning farmers without a farm, connect with retiring farmers with no successor and a wish to see their work carried on. This group named their organization Ag Connect and set about getting funding, hiring staff and securing office space. I was fortunate to be hired as director of Ag Connect.

For several years this non-profit organization worked diligently trying to develop new farming opportunities for aspiring farmers. In 2006, we entered into an agreement with Heifer International to implement a new project to help beginners secure quality breeding stock. This program is known as the Southern Iowa Sustainable Livestock Project. Heifer International provided seed money to be loaned out for purchase of breeding stock. It is a very attractive loan program for two reasons. First, there is no interest paid on the loan funds during the term of the loan. Secondly, no principal payment is made the first year. Beef cow loans are for a term of five years, with the loan being paid off in four equal installments during years 2, 3, 4, and 5. Smaller species loans are made for a four year period, again with no principal payment the first year, paying off the loan with equal installments years 2, 3, and 4.

To date we have helped start 2 new sheep flocks, 2 new goat flocks, and 6 new beef cow herds over a 5 county area in South Central Iowa. We have loaned out the entire amount of seed money Heifer provided us with. As recipients repay their loans, we, in turn, reloan that money. We are well on our way into loaning the seed money a second time. It is one of the few grant programs that recycles money.

All loan applicants must demonstrate the ability to care for animals and prove they have adequate feed and shelter. All participants are asked to partner with an experienced livestock producer to serve as a mentor. Loans applications are reviewed by the Ag Connect board.

I should say that the majority of the current board members are people who helped form Ag Connect back in the mid nineties. These people very seldom miss a meeting, some traveling great distances and all taking time off from their paying jobs to volunteer their services for this organization. They never receive any financial reimbursement, very seldom get any thanks yet continue with their volunteer efforts, year after year. A very remarkable group and one that should always be mentioned when any discussion turns to getting young people involved in agriculture.

Currently the funds are targeted for use by people in Southern Iowa or Northern Missouri. Our next round of loan application consideration will begin in January of 2010. If you live in these locations and have interest in applying, click on the link below to print a copy of the application, or contact Bill Beaman, 641-202-1850 or email, billbeaman@yahoo.com.

Click here to view and print the application