Education No. 1 Crop At Morrow’s Farm
It had been a long, hard day — the last of the 2008 Regular Session in the Alabama Legislature. So Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, decided to spend the night in Montgomery before tackling the four-hour trip home.”As I pulled up in my yard the next morning, there were about 200 first-graders at my house, and I said to myself, ‘Boy, it doesn’t get any better than this!’ They were having a ball.”Such close encounters of the kid kind are fairly common nowadays at the Morrow farm, ever since the 18-year veteran lawmaker decided to make education the No. 1 crop on the family farm.Students of all ages from across Franklin County pour into Morrow’s 300-acre farm several times a year, whether it’s to hike along the walking trails of his wetlands, gaze at the heavens through telescopes, hear storytellers during a four-day storytelling festival or discover what life was like on the farm in the old days.In fact, it was a two-day farm event — hyphenated by rain — that brought the first-graders to Morrow’s farm on the Tuesday morning after the legislative session ended. The first day’s festivities, held in intermittent downpours, drew about 200 second-graders who were able to experience farm life of the early 1900s.Quilting, basket weaving, horse shoeing, cooking and even demonstrations of washing clothes with a washboard left the kids in wide-eyed disbelief. They clucked at the chickens in the coop, oohed and ahhed over cornshuck dolls, buzzed at real bees making honey, milked wooden cows and sat entranced as Lilly, a real Holstein at the Alabama Mobile Dairy Classroom, was milked before their very eyes.”Sometimes in today’s technological world, we forget that kids don’t need to read it all on the Internet or hear it all from classroom teachers,” said Susan Hargett, the director of Community Education whom Morrow credits as being the driving force behind the farm’s success. “We need to be able to tell our stories to kids — parents do, grandparents do and community members do — because the kids need to hear about their heritage.”Carol Glass, chairman of the Franklin County Farmers Federation’s Women’s Division, agreed.
“Children in this day and time don’t know anything about the farm — you have to bring them to the farm,” said Glass, who joined fellow Women’s Division members Shirley Ezzell and Libby Daniel in serving as part of the farm day’s army of 70-plus volunteers. It was Glass who lined up the mobile milk wagon for the event.Ezzell’s husband, Charles, who serves as president of the Franklin County Farmers Federation, applauded Morrow for his generosity. “Johnny Mack grew up on a farm, and he’s worked with us really well,” said Charles Ezzell. “He’s really doing a good job, and it’s going to get bigger.”Morrow, however, says it’s people like Hargett, the Bear Creek Development Authority, Red Bay Mayor Jeff Reid and the City Council, the county’s board of education and an endless stream of volunteers like the Women’s Division who make farm days more successful than he ever dreamed they could be.”Everybody just pitches in,” he said.What’s more, Morrow says, the farm day’s success can easily be duplicated elsewhere. “Any community can do this. All you have to have is a piece of property that someone will let them use and get some volunteers, and you can recreate life as it used to be. These children are our future. If we don’t invest in them, we don’t have a future. You know the movie, Field of Dreams?” asked Morrow. “In that movie, they said, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Well, we built it, and now they’re coming, and I’m so pleased.”