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 WAUPUN – The Dodge County Farm Bureau Women’s group learned about activities at the non-profit Marsh Haven Nature Center near Waupun last week during their annual spring luncheon at the Center. 

Renee Wahlen, director of the Center, described how the center provides a refuge for visitors and wildlife at the Horicon Marsh. Facilitated by the volunteers and the community, the goal of the Center is to spark environmental awareness so nature is appreciated, conserved and celebrated.

Several members of the Farm Bureau are active as volunteers at the Center and numerous youth organizations regularly visit the center to learn about nature. 

The Center is located on the north end of the world famous Horicon Marsh. Near the entrance is the well-established Purple Martin colony. Volunteers placed the bird condos at the location and monitor the bird families as they grow and develop. 

Those visiting the Center will find many species of wildlife wandering through the woodland, prairie or wetland trails on the Center’s 46 acres. 

Marsh Haven also offers a bunkhouse and camping area for overnight group stays, a picnic shelter and campfire area, observation tower, a classroom and indoor theatre presentations. 

Wahlen presented a program highlighting the beauty of the wildlife in each of the seasons and showed the many birds that migrate to the Marsh each year to make their home until it is time to go as far away as South America for the winter. 

Marsh Haven includes an impressive museum to help visitors learn more about the history and wildlife in the Horicon Marsh area. Displays include Glacier, Native American, Pioneer, Bird Gallery, Wetland and Woodland.

There is a children’s area offering hands-on learning where they can even crawl inside a wolf den and visit with other animals at Critter Corner.

“Our traveling ambassador program shares a message of respect, concern and education for all animals, including our local wildlife,” Wahlen added.

Promoting agriculture

Like the Nature Center, the Farm Bureau Women share an interest in helping school children learn about nature. Through the Ag in the Classroom program, they help children understand how farmers work together with nature to provide meat and milk and other foods and products for people around the world.

Karen Schmidt, Dodge County’s Dairy Ambassador, and Barb Wendler, “the butter lady,” demonstrated how they teach children about agriculture in schools throughout Dodge County.

Wendler has been demonstrating the art of butter making for many years. A long time 4-H leader, she said she began when someone brought an antique glass churn to the county fair and offered to donate it to the 4-H to use for demonstrations. The 4-H leaders accepted the gift and Wendler began demonstrating at schools and events around the county.

She also collected a variety of other style churns and taught youth how to make butter by shaking cream in glass jars.

Wendler cautions the participants to pay attention to how the cream is progressing. She said when the butter is ready it will begin to stick on the sides of the jar. Too much shaking will turn it into a ball very quickly.

During the butter making process she takes the opportunity to talk about butter, cream and milk.

Students are surprised to learn it takes two and one-half gallons of milk to get a quart of cream to make a pound of butter.

While Wendler demonstrated, Schmidt, who has been the county’s dairy ambassador for 20 years, described what she teaches students in the classroom. She tries to time many of her visits to coordinate with the Farm Bureau’s fourth grade “day on the farm” activities.

“This spring when I went into the classrooms I also talked a little about the Grassland Dairy situation and about how farmers market their milk, Schmidt said. "Many of the farmers in our area were impacted by the sudden loss of their market and we thought it was important for students to understand a little about the economics of dairy farming, too, and how it impacts families.”

She also talked about how the loss of a dairy market impacted others in the community such as veterinarians, dairy service technicians and suppliers and milk haulers.

In her classroom activities Schmidt talks about cheese since 90 percent of Wisconsin’s milk goes into cheese. But she stresses the importance of drinking milk every day and the fact that milk is a wholesome food, not just a beverage.

Using a container of sugar and a measuring spoon, she has students read the label of many popular beverages and then measure out the amount of sugar in each of them.

Since milk’s only “sugar” is natural lactose, there is no added sugar. Other beverages, such as the popular high energy drinks, have as many as 17 teaspoons of sugar in the 8 ounce beverage.

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