Students learn importance of agriculture at youth field day

Olivia McClure  |  9/27/2018 3:49:17 PM

(09/27/18) WINNSBORO, La. — Experts on various aspects of agriculture told more than 200 middle and high school students about the importance of the industry at an LSU AgCenter event held Sept. 26 in Winnsboro.

At the Northeast youth field day, the youth toured several stations where AgCenter personnel talked about using drones in agriculture; forest and wildlife management; how sweet potatoes are grown, harvested and graded; and insects and pollination.

The fifth annual event, which is typically held at the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, was moved to the Franklin Cotton Warehouse because of the threat of rain.

The field day aims to raise awareness of how agriculture affects people’s everyday lives.

“We want our kids aware of where their food comes from and where their clothing comes from,” said Ashley Powell, the 4-H coordinator for the AgCenter Northeast Region. “Some kids go to the grocery store or a restaurant to buy their food and don’t realize where it comes from.”

She said presentations at the event also expose youth to education and career tracks they can pursue in agriculture, which is a major economic force in northeast Louisiana.

“It’s very important that we have people coming back to the area to work in agriculture,” she said.

Toby Lepley, an AgCenter vice president who oversees 4-H programs, told the students their generation will be responsible for helping feed, clothe and house a world population that’s expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050.

“Where can you fit into that?” he said. “It may not be that you are a sweet potato farmer, but you may be the person building the box to ship those sweet potatoes around the world. It may be the person who’s developing the battery for that drone to fly that field to make sure we can monitor what’s going on in that field. Anything you can do, you can connect to agriculture.”

He said research and technology are rapidly changing the industry, and young people today may end up working in jobs that “have not even been invented yet.”

Averi Austin, a ninth-grader at Tallulah Charter School, was intrigued by a presentation about using drones to check fields for diseases, insect damage and other problems.

“Everything was really interesting to me because I didn’t know they used a lot of technology like drones and things on farms,” she said. “Now I know how useful they are.”

Austin also heard about some jobs, such as a wildlife biologist, that piqued her interest.

“I like to work with plants and animals,” she said. “Maybe that’s a field I want to do when I go to college.”

Sydney Bell, a senior at Franklin Parish High School, said he enjoyed being around agriculture professionals and learning about their work. It was different than listening to a lesson in his agriculture class at school.

“I like the experience,” he said of the field day. “I take ag, but I’ve never been in a practical setting with it.”

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Students sample honey as they look at a honeycomb at the Northeast youth field day at the Franklin Cotton Warehouse in Winnsboro, Sept. 26, 2018. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter agents Dennis Burns, left, and R.L. Frazier, right, talk about drones at the Northeast youth field day at the Franklin Cotton Warehouse in Winnsboro, Sept. 26, 2018. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Students dig sweet potatoes out of hay-filled containers at the Northeast youth field day at the Franklin Cotton Warehouse in Winnsboro, Sept. 26, 2018. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy talks to students at the Northeast youth field day at the Franklin Cotton Warehouse in Winnsboro, Sept. 26, 2018. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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