The Walworth County Farm Bureau member offered a stranded boater a helping hand, with no clue what the outcome of their chance meeting would be. The boat driver was a police officer from Racine. He expressed to Kathy that it was his dream to get city kids from Racine out to Lake Beulah to experience the lake and fish.
Kathy responded, “Well, let’s bring them here! Have they ever been to a farm?” In an hour and a half, the two strangers planned the first Kids and Cops, Farming and Fishing event.
Every year since, Kathy and the Racine Police Department have teamed up to bring a life-changing experience to inner-city children.
“The students are down at the station an hour and a half before the deadline to make sure they can be on the list to come,” Kathy said. “The event keeps growing every year, which is great. I would like to see all children have the opportunity to see and know where their food comes from.”
The Big Day
The annual one-day event takes place each July when nearly 100 children (ages 6 to 12) and 20 Racine police come to East Troy to fish and see a farm. The Department of Natural Resources provides fishing poles, and staff members teach the youth how to bait their poles and cast their lines. Kathy also partnered with a local marina and boat owners who voluntarily give pontoon boat rides.
From the lake, the youth are then bused to the Tober Farm in East Troy. Kathy and Warren Tober, who live on a farm near East Troy, previously dairy farmed near Clinton. The East Troy FFA chapter provides animals for the event and members are on hand to answers students’ questions.
Another supporter of the event is a professor from Carroll College in Waukesha. She has established a scholarship program where numerous full scholarships are granted to students in Racine whose parents do not have a college degree.
Kathy says the event is partly about building relationships with kids who will someday be adult consumers making food decisions.
“Everything comes from the farmer,” Kathy explains when the students are on the farm. “See that corn in the field? That corn is one of the ingredients in your cereal.”
Kathy mentioned, “These students don’t know where their food comes from. They walk into a grocery store and just think their food just comes from the shelves. On our farm, they learn and can see where it comes from.”
“Farm Bureau has shown me how to educate people and to make them more aware of agriculture,” Kathy said. “Farm Bureau has instilled so much in me. I now look at educating people differently.”
In addition to being the first female president of the Walworth County Farm Bureau, Kathy graduated from Farm Bureau’s first Institute leadership class. She is also active with the Ag in the Classroom program and the state Volunteers for Agriculture committee.
“Pretty much anything that goes on in Farm Bureau, I’m involved in,” she said. “People don’t realize how much Farm Bureau has to offer. Farm Bureau is for education, environment, policy, leadership, public speaking and the list goes on and on.”
Currently elected to the Conservation Congress and as a supervisor in the Town of Troy, she is extremely active in advocating for both agriculture and wildlife.
“I want things [to be] better. I want change. I want everyone to learn about where their food comes from,” said the self-described “out-of-the-box person.”
As Kathy plans for next year’s event, she looks back in amazement on all that has come out lending a helping hand to a stranded boater 16 years ago.
Story by Sheri Sutton. Original version appeared in the October/November 2011 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.