Partnerships key to St. James Ag Day success

Johnny Morgan  |  10/17/2018 4:50:03 PM

(10/17/18) GRAMERCY, La. — The Ag Day at the St. James Parish Fast Food Farm continues to be a success because of the collaborative effort between numbers of local entities.

The group of supporters includes the Fast Food Farm board of directors, corporate sponsor Mosaic Louisiana operations, the St. James Public School System, the St. James Extension Service, 4-H clubs of St. James, Pro Start Classes and Agriculture classes at the Career and Technology Center and other local businesses and industry.

Denise Hymel, executive director of Fast Food Farm Inc., took the idea that she got from a Pizza Garden she saw in California and presented it to family and friends in St. James Parish, which started the process of development.

“An idea that was born over 15 years ago has become a bi-annual teaching tool that shows students how food gets from the farm to their table,” she said.

Twice a year, the Fast Food Farm in St. James Parish prepares for nearly 1,000 area students to tour the facility and take home a message that will last a lifetime, said LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Ken Guidry.

“The fall edition of the St. James Parish Ag Day gives the second- and third-grade students of the parish the opportunity to experience interactive activities, which will help educate them on the importance of agriculture in their daily lives,” Guidry said.

At the event, animals are available for touching and viewing, as are interactive displays from several agencies, he said. “There are approximately 28 booths for the children to explore.”

“The farm is a hands-on, whole-body experience for the youth to learn about foods, nutrition, science, math and a host of other important subject areas,” he said.

In addition to teaching the students where their food comes from, Ag Days and the Fast Food Farm have given youth and adults the opportunity to develop their volunteer spirit, Guidry said.

Kelly Martin, second grade teacher at Paulina Elementary Magnet, along with Elizabeth Landry, a third grade teacher, said the event reinforces what they have been teaching in class.

“We just studied how bees pollinate the plants in class, and we come here and there’s a little booth where they are talking about it here,” Martin said.

The all-volunteer workforce plans and hosts these events, and each Ag Day has in excess of 150 volunteers giving at least eight hours of service.

St. James Parish 4-H’ers, agriculture science students and Pro-start students serve as peer teachers for each of the stations at Ag Day. Adult and youth volunteers set up all equipment, as well as teaching or assisting at each station, he said.

Jackie McCreary, public affairs manager for Mosaic Louisiana operations, explained how her company has been involved with Ag Day through the years.

“Mosaic is so proud to call St. James Parish home, and also proud to support great community events like St. James Parish Ag Day,” McCreary said. “We are proud of how our employees come out and volunteer and we’re proud of the learning that’s happening here.”

McCreary said this is a great way to spread the seeds of volunteerism and she hopes some of the students with grow up to become farmers and become Mosaic customers.

“The biggest challenge faced at the farm is a lack of volunteers,” Guidry said. “They’re the ones who make the job of having Ag Days and regular tours for individuals and groups possible.”

Even though Guidry believes he has some of the best volunteers around, he said he could use many more to help with all the tasks needed at the farm.

The volunteers get to learn as well as teach others. This year Bishop Ordeneaux, an eighth-grade volunteer from Paulina, had a great time showing off the properties of oobleck, or non-Newtonian fluid, which is a fluid that can act as a solid.

Emma Waguespack, a second grader at Paulina Elementary, said her favorite activity at the event was holding a chicken. “Because she likes me.”

Ag Day is coordinated by the Fast Food Farm, St. James Parish 4-H, St. James Parish FFA, Pro-Start Program, New River Soil Water Conservation District, East St. James Parish Ag in the Classroom and Mosaic.

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Second- and third- grade students learn about planting vegetables during the St. James Parish Ag Day held at the Fast Food Farm in Gramercy on Oct. 12. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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St. James Parish students get a lesson in how to control erosion during the St. James Parish Ag Day held at the Fast Food Farm in Gramercy on Oct. 12. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter agent Andre’ Brock teaches a lesson on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables to second- and third- grade students during the St. James Parish Ag Day held at the Fast Food Farm in Gramercy on Oct. 12. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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