Children learn where food comes from at ‘Ag Alley’ in West Monroe

Cynthia Stephens, Benedict, Linda F., Bairnsfather, Deborah M., Hutchinson, Robert L., Van Osdell, Mary Ann  |  1/25/2008 3:22:16 AM

LSU AgCenter agents Kayla Sevier, left, Tensas Parish, and Virginia Boutwell, Franklin Parish, teach children how ingredients for pizza are grown as part of Ag Alley in West Monroe on Jan. 16-17. (Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell) (Click on image to download larger version.)

A pizza “garden” with the raw ingredients. (Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell)

News Release Distributed 01/25/08

More than 2,200 first and fourth graders along with 200 teachers and school personnel participated in the fourth annual LSU AgCenter Ag Alley. The event was part of Ag Expo and was held at the Ike Hamilton Exposition Center in West Monroe Jan. 16-19.

“This is the best attendance we’ve had and the first time it was held at the Ike,” said Debbie Bairnsfather, LSU AgCenter 4-H coordinator for northeast Louisiana.

The purpose of Ag Alley is to help children learn where their food comes from and learn about Louisiana’s agribusiness industry. All of the exhibits, which are lined up in alleys, are educational and designed to reinforce science lessons the children learn in school.

“Each teacher received a CD with supplemental lessons and other material as part of participating in Ag Alley,” Bairnsfather said.

This year Ag Alley featured sweet potatoes along with other agricultural commodities. A special exhibit demonstrated where all the ingredients for pizza come from. In a minifarm, children were able to observe cows, pigs, sheep and goats and learn what they eat and produce.

“The children were able to pet ducks and learn how to be safe around animals,” said Cynthia Stephens, LSU AgCenter agent in Ouachita Parish and the Ag Alley coordinator.

Ag Alley was open to scheduled school tours on Jan. 16-17. Starting at noon on Jan. 18, it was open to those attending the Ag Expo, which is sponsored by the North Louisiana Agri-Business Council, said Bob Hutchinson, LSU AgCenter director for the northeast region.

About 7,000 people and 1,000 exhibitors participated in Ag Expo, Hutchinson said.

“Some of the children who had been to Ag Alley with their schools took their parents back through during the expo, telling them what they’d learned,” Hutchinson said. “That’s pretty positive feedback. The only complaint we had was Ag Alley was too crowded. We can take care of that next year.”

4-H Junior Leaders joined LSU AgCenter personnel in explaining the sweet potato exhibit. Attendees learned about the economic value, producing parishes, varieties, how they are grown, equipment used and nutritional information, Stephens said.

“Dawson Farms from Delhi donated sweet potatoes so each child who attended received one,” Stephens said.

LSU AgCenter-trained Master Gardeners in northeast Louisiana had a fruits and vegetables exhibit, which included blueberry bushes, grape vines, satsumas, a blooming lime tree and a fig tree.

“The teachers were given mayhaw trees to plant at their schools,” Stephens said.

Master Gardeners also conducted a plant clinic for adults.

In the equine area, the children learned the proper equipment for riding horses. For instance, shoes with a heel are best for riding with a saddle to help your foot stay in the stirrups.

The Body Walk, a joint project of the LSU AgCenter and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, was set up for first graders. This exhibit is designed to show students how to be smart from the inside out. It features a nine-stop tour of the human body, including the brain, mouth, stomach, small intestine, heart, lungs, bones, muscles and skin.

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Contacts: Cynthia Stephens at (318) 323-2251, or cstephens@agcenter.lsu.edu

Debbie Bairnsfather at (318) 435-2903, or dbairnsfather@agcenter.lsu.edu

Bob Hutchinson at (318) 766-3769, rhutchinson@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu

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