AgDay draws next generation of producers

Johnny Morgan  |  6/15/2016 7:07:20 PM

(06/14/16) GREENSBURG, La. – ‘The Next Generation of Farmers’ was the theme of the St. Helena Parish Agriculture Day and Sustainable Farm Tour on June 13.

LSU AgCenter agent Ahmad Robertson said the event gives area farmers an opportunity to showcase agriculture and help young people understand where their food comes from.

“AgDay also allows these growers to share the true success that we see as we look out across rural America today,’ he said.

Over 120 agriculture enthusiasts, about half of which were children, attended the tour, traveling from as far away as New Orleans and Lafayette.

The annual event began with a beef cattle tour of Larry Freeman’s farm, where LSU AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell discussed the proper management of forages.

From there, the group traveled to three other vegetable growers’ farms to see how hard work pays dividends.

At those farms, LSU AgCenter entomologist Dennis Ring and weed specialist Ron Strahan answered questions and gave tips on being successful in the vegetable industry.

At Warner Hall’s vegetable farm, the group saw how the LSU AgCenter retiree produces enough vegetables for his family and many others on the farm where he grew up.

“I grow corn, watermelons, beans, tomatoes, squash, hibiscus, a row of sugarcane and a few other vegetables,” Hall said. “Several of my friends and I bring our produce together and sell from here in my yard, and we take some to stores in Baton Rouge also.”

At Jerry Hall’s vegetable farm, the group saw how vegetables can be raised without using traditional herbicides and pesticides.

At Willie Tillery’s vegetable farm, the group saw how the 80-year-old keeps active by raising produce.

Tillery uses a variety of methods to deter wildlife from his crop. In his watermelon patch, he uses a maze of string to keep the crows and raccoons out. To deter deer, he ties plastic grocery bags to the string to scare them away, he said.

Robertson said he tries to invite a diverse crowd from other areas so they can take the information back to their areas.

“We want them to see rotational grazing and forage management on a beef cattle farm,” he said. “We also want them to see drip irrigation and integrated pest management in vegetable operations.”

For the past 10 years, growers in the area have been holding AgDay in the parish, Robertson said.

“In addition to the growers providing information, we also have state specialists from the LSU AgCenter here to answer questions, especially for the youth because they are the future,” he said.

Robertson’s parish advisory committee meets each spring to discuss issues in the parish and to develop the plan for AgDay.

The students in attendance were part of the parish summer enrichment program, 4-H and One More Generation (OMG) kids.

The event concluded with a sponsored lunch, where 90-year-old L.S. Spears was presented the 2016 Small Farmer Award for 75 years of agriculture service.

“Mr. Spears still grows his crops on 350 foot rows and is known throughout the parish for the exceptional work he does on the farm,” Robertson said.

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St. Helena Parish farmer Warner Hall explains the secrets to his success in the produce business on his farm to more than 120 participants at the St. Helena Parish Agriculture Day and Sustainable Farm Tour on June 13. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter agent Ahmad Robertson explains how crops are grown and some wildlife deterrence methods to attendees of the St. Helena Parish Agriculture Day and Sustainable Farm Tour on June 13. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter entomologist Dennis Ring explains mite damage on bell peppers at the St. Helena Parish Agriculture Day and Sustainable Farm Tour on June 13. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter agent Ahmad Robertson presents the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award to L.S. Spears, a 90-year-old farmer who still plants his vegetable crops on 350-foot rows. The award was presented at the St. Helena Parish Agriculture Day and Sustainable Farm Tour on June 13. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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