Try 1 month for 99¢

GRANTSDALE - The traditional rite of spring for Grantsdale Elementary School second-graders is the annual walk from the school to tour Homestead Organics Farm nearby at the turnoff to Skalkaho Highway.

Last week’s tour was probably the last time the kids will actually walk from the school, according to second-grade teacher Karen Daniels, because Grantsdale School is being closed as a cost-saving measure after this year and the kids will be housed at Daly Elementary next year.

“Daly is probably a little too far to walk, so I think this will be our last time doing that,” she said. “We’re still going to come to the farm, though. The kids love it.”

The farm tour is a highlight of the year for the kids, and they spent the morning tasting tender beet and pea leaves, petting baby turkeys, feeding goats, planting soybeans and learning about agriculture in the Bitterroot.

Daniels got a grant from the Toshiba Corp. last year to buy Flip video recorders and cameras, and the kids take turns passing around the gadgets to record the experience. The students also made “garden fairies,” and planted their own little garden plots.

Farm owner Laura Garber conducts the tour every year because she enjoys teaching the children about what it takes for farmers to put food on other people’s table.

Because it is spring, Garber had her hands full with dozens of newly hatched baby turkeys, including Narragansett’s and Spanish Blacks that were scrambling around and chirping in the straw under a heat lamp. She has a few dozen more of the spotted eggs, just a tiny bit bigger than a chicken egg, that are incubating, and the kids were enthralled with petting the fuzzy animals.

“Turkeys actually take a lot longer to mature than chickens,” Garber explained. “These will be ready by next Thanksgiving. About half of the eggs don’t make it though. It’s about 50/50.”

Garber showed the kids the greenhouse, where she let them taste everything from onions to kale to garlic.

“It’s delicious isn’t it?” she asked the kids as she demonstrated biting into a beet leaf.

When some of the kids asked why there was a large storage tank of water in one of the greenhouses, Garber explained that it helps regulate the temperature at night.

“Having water helps keep the plants warm at night,” she said. “We put a big plastic sheet, like a blanket, over the plants and the water keeps them nice and warm at night. We also have a fan that switches on if it gets hotter than 80 degrees during the day, so they never get too hot or too cold. And the reason we start them in the greenhouse is so that when we take them out to the field to plant them, they already have a head start and are much bigger than the weeds.”

The goats were another highlight, although Garber had to round one up with her hands to make sure every kid got a chance to pet it.

“I have a groups of kids come out to the farm every year,” Garber said. “They love it and I do too.”

Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or