Mary Ann Van Osdell, Boutwell, Mary Virginia, Langston, Marianna L., Smith, Joann, Lee, Donna R., Russell, Sandra, Stephens, Cynthia, Holmes, Jason E., Wilder, Sharon, Pinnell-Alison, Carol L., Tarver, Linda F., Collins, R. Keith, Brew, Rafash E.
News Release Distributed 01/15/10
WEST MONROE, La. – More than 1,800 first and fourth graders from seven northeast Louisiana parishes heard about agriculture commodities at Ag Alley in special showings Jan. 13-14 at Ag Expo.
The LSU AgCenter coordinates Ag Alley to help children learn where their food comes from as well as teach them about Louisiana’s agribusiness industry. The exhibit and tour combine several “alleys” filled with information – this year on horticulture, corn, livestock and horses – said Cynthia Stephens, LSU AgCenter agent in Ouachita Parish.
The students were taught about economic value, producing parishes, planting, farm equipment and nutrition. The lessons are designed to reinforce science lessons the children learn in school, Stephens said. Teachers also receive information to take back to the classroom.
Students came from Ouachita, Caldwell, Morehouse, Lincoln, Franklin, Union and Jackson parishes.
“Corn is a major crop in northeast Louisiana now,” said Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter agent in Richland Parish. “March to mid-April is the prime planting time.” He explained that farmers have to control weeds and insects.
In a history lesson about corn, Carol Pinnell-Alison, LSU AgCenter agent in Franklin Parish, said Native Americans called corn maize, and Christopher Columbus introduced the plant to Europe.
Donna Lee, LSU AgCenter agent in East Carroll Parish, told about different types of corn – field, sweet and popcorn.
Children learned about such corn byproducts as tape, envelopes, stamps, chalk and starch from Sandra Russell, LSU AgCenter agent in Caldwell Parish.
Joann Smith, LSU AgCenter nutrition educator in Richland Parish, gave a lesson about dairy cows. She told the students that cows eat hay and grain and need water.
Smith exhibited dairy products and said they build bones and healthy teeth. Children sampled cheese and milked Louella the Cow, a wooden cow that simulated how milking is actually done.
“I have learned a few things about cows and beef myself,” said Connie Robinson, who was there with her granddaughter Maci Ford.
The students saw cows, pigs, sheep, goats, catfish and crawfish and learned what they eat and produce. They got to pet ducks and learn how to be safe around animals.
Decorian James of Ruston Elementary School said he learned there are both beef and dairy cows. Jason Holmes, LSU AgCenter agent in Union Parish, told the group farmers want to produce “safe and good-quality beef to stay in business.”
Rafash Brew, LSU AgCenter agent in Union Parish, showed the students parts of a plant – the root, stem, flower and leaves – and told them each can be eaten. Carrots, beets, radishes, ginger and potatoes are examples of roots, asparagus, celery and green onions are stems; broccoli and artichokes are flowers and lettuce, cabbage, spinach and mustard greens are leaves.
“Plants are really important to us,” Brew said. “Some can be used for medicine.”
A garden in a glove demonstrated seeds can be planted on wet cotton and the glove becomes a “greenhouse.”
Marianna Langston and Sharon Wilder, LSU AgCenter nutrition educators, taught the children what germination and pollination mean and reminded them to wash their fruits and vegetables before they eat them.
Washing fruits and vegetables under running water was reinforced by Tammy Tarver, LSU AgCenter nutrition educator, in a puppet show featuring “Bac,” short for bacteria. “Bac” told the children about germs on their backpacks, shoes and baseball gloves. They were reminded to wash their hands before they eat, after they use the bathroom and after playing with pets. The children sang the ABC song while pretending to scrub their hands.
“From the Farm to your Pocket” taught that saving money is a great habit. Ginger Boutwell, LSU AgCenter agent in Franklin Parish, gave a lesson that involved Sammy Rabbit saving carrots his mother was able to use on a stormy day.
The North Louisiana Agri-Business Council sponsors Ag Expo, an annual event that promotes the agribusiness industry and informs the public of the importance of agriculture.
Mary Ann Van Osdell