With the sweltering morning sun above, youngsters piled out of school
buses Friday at Sweetwater Valley Farm, their nostrils filled with the
smells of farm life.
Several local organizations partnered again
this year to hold Loudon County Farm Day, in which fourth-graders from
Loudon County and Lenoir City schools delved into farm life through
hands-on learning opportunities. Throughout the day, students stopped by
booths across the farm to learn more about all aspects of agriculture.
nationwide are several generations removed from agriculture. Many of
these are already four and five generations removed from agriculture,"
Becky Richesin, chairwoman of Farm Bureau Women and coordinator of the
event, said as a group of Eaton Elementary School students stepped off
Farm Day is a joint effort between Loudon County Farm
Bureau Women and Loudon County Young Farmers and Ranchers working
cooperatively with University of Tennessee and Tennessee State
University Extension, Loudon County 4-H and Future Farmers of America
members from Lenoir City and Loudon County schools.
Richesin said as little as 1 percent of the U.S. population has direct ties to agriculture.
percent of these kids have no connections whatsoever," Richesin said.
"That's why we teach others about agriculture."
Each year with Farm Day, those involved hope to enlighten the future leaders of America to the world of agriculture.
we don't teach them where their food and fiber originate, when they
become our future decision makers agriculture is not going to be an
important part of their decision making. Farming is the backbone of our
country," Richesin said. "... Wiser choices could be made if we have
trained our public to understand how agriculture truly works."
than 500 fourth-graders attended Farm Day this year, Richesin said.
They delved into early cooking through Dutch oven demonstrations,
examined a working beehive, watched how to rope a horse and even learned
about water quality, soybeans and agriculture in Croatia.
will have an opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience getting
to touch and feel many different products that come from local farms —
corn, soybeans, wheat," Richesin said. "They have an opportunity to see
how feed is made for the cattle. They get to see how milk is made, how
milk is processed. They get to see what all goes into the cows to make
the milk. They get to go into the cheese plant and see how cheese is
"They get an opportunity to learn about how technology has
changed in harvesting crops when we go from horse power with actual
horses all the way to small engines and antique tractors and then even
into our modern day equipment with modern technology, GPS," she said.
"Many of school children have had a unit on the farm before they come.
Many of them will do it after they go back to the classroom."
Celia Harrison, who owns the farm with her husband John, said she enjoys hearing feedback from children who have participated.
teachers tell me they talk about it for days and weeks and even years
because I'll run into kids who were here years before and they will come
up to me and talk to me about what they saw on our farm," Harrison
said. "I think it makes a lasting impression on everyone, and I'm glad
It's not only a benefit for those removed from
agriculture, Richesin said. Many exhibit speakers are young students in
Loudon County 4-H Honor Club or FFA.
Some of those students who
helped in the past have since graduated high school and college and have
started their own careers. They still manage to find a way back to help
out at Loudon County Farm Day.
Rhea County 4-H agent Josey
Miller, who started at Farm Day as a fifth-grade exhibitor, returned
this year to assist in Loudon County.
"I think it's very
important these kids know where their food comes from and that milk just
doesn't come from Food City or wherever. They need to know it comes
from a real farm, and it's produced by a cow," Miller said.
Miller and Kevin Hensley, with Farm Bureau, said participating in Loudon
County Farm Day as children helped them in career pursuits.
didn't grow up on a farm, but being involved in 4-H, showing lambs and
hogs and coming to Farm Day and stuff I knew that I wanted to be
involved in agriculture," Hensley said.
"This has helped me not
only with public speaking, but I mean just different social skills,
responsibility. You have to be here at a certain time. You have to bring
all your exhibit materials and keep up with it. Even as a tour guide
you have to keep up with these kids," Miller said. "It develops so many
life skills that these kids who are tour guides today don't know they
are developing these life skills but they are."