Old McDonald has nothing on Farm Bureau, when it comes to kids’ agriculture education. Rather than take Long County school children to the farm on a field trip, the farm came to them on May 8.
Smiley Elementary School second graders visited 14 farm stations, courtesy of the local Georgia Farm Bureau Federation office. Volunteers and ag experts manned stations to teach kids about chickens, goats, horses, hay, a mobile dairy, cotton and forestry. Future Farmers of America presented seed in a bag, Canoochee EMC demonstrated energy, and the Department of Natural Resources discussed conservation. There was also a booth for face painting, farm equipment and tools.
Katelyn Poppell, office manager with the local GFBF office, said the students’ day was devoted to learning about all aspects of agriculture. Farming was a part of Poppell’s childhood in Florida, she said.
“Growing up my nanny had cattle and that’s how she made her living,” Poppell said. “Throughout school I was a member of FFA, I held an officer position and we competed, making it to state several years. I also showed cattle at the local fair. Agriculture is very dear to my heart.”
Poppell said her position at the Long County Farm Bureau office allows her to visit local schools and share her passion for agriculture.
“I normally take a book and an activity and spend a few days a week at the schools,” she said. “I attend the FFA meetings here and am very involved with them. I share with students as much as I can the importance of agriculture and getting involved because it’s more than just farming. With Long County being a military community a lot of children have no idea what agriculture is and why it exists. It’s my goal to help the children learn and understand why our farmers and agriculture is important; no farmers means no food. We do Farm Day so the kids can get a hands-on experience with agriculture.”
Smiley Elementary School Principal Beverly Hill said she, the faculty and students appreciated Poppell and Farm Bureau’s involvement with the school, and wanted to thank the presenters for participating in Farm Day.
Nicole Karstedt with Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom started the children off with a lesson about cows, the milking process, pasteurization and dairy products.
Karstedt told children that a dairy cow produces milk 10 months out of the year, and is “dry” for two months. She likened the cow’s “break” to students’ summer break.
“She’s going to eat 8 hours a day to make her milk,” Karstedt. However, the cow is milked only 5 minutes in the morning, and 5 minutes in the afternoon, she added.
“We want her relaxed, we want her happy,” Karstedt said.
Children also learned such facts as a cow’s average lifespan - 10 years, and that other animals, such as camels and goats, are milked in other countries.
Following the mobile dairy classroom lecture, classes dispersed to the various stations.
Nellie, a 4-year old pig, waited in her pen for students to pet her.
Long County’s Farm Bureau President, Manuel Sneed, taught children about tractor equipment, pointing to a huge piece of machinery with a hay baler attached to it.
Wildlife biologist Kara Day with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources allowed second graders to touch a small, stuffed alligator and showed pelts and skulls of other animals, explaining about their habits and habitats.
Canoochee EMC safety director Keith Durance, and warehouse supervisor Ted Sconyers warned students to stay clear of power lines and offered them safety tips.
Other presenters included Cindy and Kayla Simmons with Horse Creek Riding Stables, Taylor Sill with the Georgia Cotton Commission, and poultry farmer Melanie Hendrix who talked to the kids about raising chickens.
Poppell said Georgia Farm Bureau has two sides to its organization: insurance and the federation. She is involved with the federation, which advocates for farmers and engages in community outreach, such as Farm Day.
For more information on Georgia Farm Bureau, visit www.gfb.org.