By Marlee Moore
Shouts, squeals and a flurry of questions filled the air as elementary schoolers learned the basics of growing cotton, cattle and other local crops at Holtville Ag Day May 12.
“It looks like blueberries!” quipped a curious student, pointing to treated seed.
“How do they get the seeds out?” asked another.
“How many machines do you need?”
Standing beside a colossal-to-kids cotton picker, Jonathan Edgar patiently answered each question as 400 kindergarten through second-grade students rotated through the event.
“All of them knew what cotton was but had never touched it or seen it up close,” said Edgar, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Young Farmers Committee. “They all knew the name of our cotton gin but didn’t know what it meant. It was a great opportunity for them to get out of the classroom and see what all happens around them, how close ag is to them in their community. It’s not just something on the news or something out West.”
Holtville High School ag teacher Andrew Palmer chairs the Elmore County Young Farmers Committee and revived Ag Day after a decade-long hiatus with help from his FFA students.
“I grew up coming to Ag Day,” Palmer said. “It’s something kids looked forward to for years, so when our committee got the chance to bring it back, it was a no-brainer. I want my students to learn that their food doesn’t come from the grocery store; it comes from farmers. The sooner they learn that, the better.”
At the Alabama Forestry Association station, students learned how trees are “in” products they use and eat daily — toothpaste, syrup, ice cream, macaroni and cheese and more.
“Why does toothpaste stay on your toothbrush?” asked the leader.
Students responded en masse, “Because it has trees in it!”
Other stations included a petting zoo with goats from Federation State Sheep & Goat Committee Chair Melissa Palmer; the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” trailer from the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association; a honeybee exhibit; and farm equipment. Students were ferried to Ag Day on hayrides.
Young Farmers committees across the state annually organize farm days to herald the end of school. Edgar said he enjoys seeing photos from fellow Young Farmers pepper social media every year.
“Compared to 50 years ago, there’s a huge disconnect between kids and where their food and clothes come from,” Edgar said. “That’s the goal — to educate these kids. They can take the information back and talk to their parents and build understanding. It’s great to have a lot of people coming together for a common goal — to educate kids.”
For tips on organizing a farm day, contact Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.