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Marshall County Students Get Hands-On Farm Learning Experience | News, Sports, Jobs

picture by: Alan Olson

Marshall County students discover that pigs aren’t as soft as they look. Holding the pig is Greg Knight.

MOUNDSVILLE – Students from across Marshall County gathered at the County Fairgrounds to see the animals and produce that make up their daily meals up close and personal, while also having the opportunity to hear about them from the experts .

Dozens of fifth graders from schools across the county attended the 12th annual Hands On Ag Day, organized by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Northern Panhandle Conservation District. Students alternate between 11 stations, where local experts teach children the details of raising livestock, planting and raising produce, and other ways agriculture helps support the community .

At various stations, children learned facts about which parts of each animal produce which food items, while touching, feeding and interacting with livestock. At the dairy station, children turned small containers of cream into butter, while the next station allowed human children to brush and feed the kids in their pen.

NRCS District Ecologist Katie Fitzsimmons said the event provides a better opportunity to learn about the realities of the world than classroom work because students can feel and see their subjects first-hand. Fitzsimmons said she and other organizers drew inspiration from their own lineups to inform Ag Day.

“When we started this, it was like we were young, we had to go to a farm, or we had something like that when we were that age,” she said. “If you are there, if you see it, if you touch it, you remember it more. It’s a memory that children will have as they grow up.

One of the new stations this year is the Soil Trailer, where children saw a glimpse of life underground and the composition of the earth beneath their feet. Fitzsimmons hopes students will respond well to their newest addition.

“We get feedback from all the kids, and I always think the kids will say they preferred the horses or the cows,” she said. “Normally their favorite station is about the bees, but this year I’d be really interested in the soil tunnel trailer.”

Fitzsimmons thanked Marshall County Schools for transporting students and providing lunch for children, Marshall County Commission for providing lunches for adults, Marshall County Fairground Board for use of the park exhibits, as well as parents, speakers, volunteers and the many organizations that also provided volunteers. These include the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Conservation Agency, WVU Extension Service, Marshall County Fair, Marshall County Agricultural Bureau, the Marshall County Commission and John Marshall Future Farmers of America.

“I believe we’ve lost a generation or two in the sense that we know where their food comes from,” added Mark Fitzsimmons, Northern Panhandle Conservation District Supervisor and member of the planning committee. “We have to get them back and I think the best way to do that is through their children.”

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