Ag Wonders gives children up-close look at Florida Parishes’ agriculture

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Camille Brady, a 4-H agent in Ascension Parish, holds a 2-week-old goat as students from St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy pet it during Ag Wonders, an event hosted by the LSU AgCenter on April 20 at the Florida Parishes Arena in Amite City. Photo by Olivia McClure

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Volunteers from the Louisiana Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program show students from Roseland Elementary Montessori School how to shake containers of cream to make butter during Ag Wonders on April 20 at the Florida Parishes Arena in Amite City. Photo by Olivia McClure

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As LSU AgCenter Youth Wetlands Program educator Heather Niemic, right, and students from Loranger Elementary School watch, a girl reacts with disgust as she holds a skunk fur at Ag Wonders on April 20 at the Florida Parishes Arena in Amite City. Photo by Olivia McClure

(04/20/16) AMITE CITY, La. – As teachers guided their classes through more than 20 agriculture exhibits, four heifers standing near the back of an arena quickly caught the attention of nearly every child.

“Those are big cows!” the excited young visitors exclaimed over and over.

For many of those students, April 20 — when the LSU AgCenter hosted Ag Wonders at the Florida Parishes Arena — was the first time they’d seen and touched farm animals, including dairy heifers, a Brahman beef bull, goats, rabbits and baby chicks. They also had a chance to learn about other aspects of agriculture, especially those prominent in the Florida Parishes region, such as dairy production, nursery crops and forestry.

“It’s important for children to know where their food and fiber come from,” said Regina Bracy, AgCenter Southeast Region director.

This event started eight years ago. Attendance has grown considerably, with more than 1,000 students and 40 volunteers from several parishes participating this year, said Renee Castro, 4-H coordinator for the region.

This was the second year Amanda O’Neill brought her Cloverbuds 4-H club for kindergartners to third-graders in Tangipahoa Parish.

“They just met a tree farmer,” she said. “That’s not something you think about when you think about farmers — growing trees — but it’s so important to this state.”

O’Neill, along with many children, parents and teachers, say the hands-on nature of the exhibits and activities is their favorite part of Ag Wonders.

Students at the event got to touch furs of animals native to Louisiana, see products that are made from wood, and shake cream to make butter. They learned about eating healthy foods and how to make exercise fun by playing games.

“Kids usually learn better if they can touch and feel something,” Bracy said. “When they touch things, make things, then they take a message home that they can share with their families.”

Several agencies and organizations — including 4-H clubs, Master Gardeners, local nursery and forestry associations and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry — provided volunteers and exhibits at the event.

4/20/2016 7:09:15 PM
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