Ag Alley to be featured at Ag Expo in West Monroe in January

Karol Osborne  |  12/8/2016 5:17:43 PM

(12/08/16) WEST MONROE, La. – Ag Alley, an interactive educational program about Louisiana agriculture, is set for Jan. 11-12 at the Ike Hamilton Expo Center in West Monroe for pre-registered first- and fourth-grade classroom tours.

Presented by the LSU AgCenter, Ag Alley is held in conjunction with the North Louisiana Agri-Business Council Ag Expo, an agriculture education and industry-based exposition. Ag Alley brings agriculture to life with hands-on learning activities about how food and other agricultural products are made.

The public can visit Ag Alley at the LSU AgCenter Square at Ag Expo, which runs Jan. 13-14 and showcases informational booths on agriculture, nutrition and health, and 4-H youth development programs as well as interactive exhibits such as the Germ Cave and 4-H mini-farm.

Ag Alley 2017 will focus on plant and animal agricultural exhibits including sweet potatoes, animals, horticultural plants and bees, according to AgCenter organizers.

The exhibits aim to teach about agriculture and where food comes from, said Richard Letlow, Morehouse Parish extension agent.

“The children that go through Ag Alley learn things that stay with them the rest of their lives,” Letlow said.

The 4-H mini-farm is a popular stop for youth and adults alike and highlights animal production with poultry, rabbit, swine, sheep, goat, cattle and horse exhibits.

Developed to increase awareness and encourage education in agriculture, the fourth-grade alley aims to reinforce science-based learning with real-life applications, said Markaye Russell, Ouachita Parish extension agent.

School groups touring the mini-farm will get lessons on swine breeds, meat cuts and how byproducts from swine production are used in the medical industry, said Brandon Reeder, Union Parish extension agent.

Learning about sweet potato production captures student imaginations as they learn how sweet potatoes are produced and the diversity of ways they are used in value-added product development and processing, said Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Northeast Region and sweet potato specialist.

In the horticulture alley, children will identify different plants for gardens and landscapes and learn about beekeeping and the vital role of bees as pollinators. Teachers will receive seeds and planting information to use in a classroom project.

A newer feature of the tour is the combine simulator where students can sit in the demonstration cab and imagine driving through a row crop production field.

Students even get to grind corn to make corn meal at the corn exhibit, which offers an up-close look at real corn plants and mature stalks to teach about corn production and corn-based products, said Carol Pinnell-Alison, Franklin Parish agent.

First-graders touring the Down on the Farm alley learn about food from farm to table in a series of five interactive stations, she said.

Children easily identify with the stations that feature catchy names and introduce concepts that link food origins to nutrition and health, said Terri Crawford, 4-H regional coordinator.

– At the Delta Farm, the focus is on making connections with plants produced in gardens and on farms and the fruits and vegetables important for good health. Students will make a carrot seed tape to plant at home.

– Farmer Pete’s Place emphasizes the role of both animal and plant foods in providing protein foods for making a healthy plate by matching common foods with their protein source in an interactive game.

– Sam’s Silo introduces the role of grains in the diet and teaches students about whole and refined grains, as well as how grains are harvested, milled and processed. Using mouse pads and sandpaper, children will simulate the milling process using rough rice.

– Louella’s Dairy Farm features a simulated milking station using a life-size dairy cow model. Students learn how milk is processed and identify food products made from milk.

– The Tiger Cafeteria focuses on MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture food guide, as students use the knowledge of where food comes from to build a healthy plate from the five food groups.

Pre-registration for first-grade and fourth-grade Ag Alleys is required and open to all schools. For information, contact the LSU AgCenter Ouachita Parish Extension Office by Dec. 12 at 318-323-2251.

Interactive curriculum supplements are provided for teachers to extend the learning experience when they return to the classroom, Russell said.

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