An Up-Close Look
Ask Good Questions
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
"Old McDonald" made room for about 600 children on Tuesday for "Kids Day on the Farm" at the University of Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center of Greeneville.
For more than 20 years, the annual event has pulled Greeneville, Greene County, and private school third-graders on wagons behind tractors driven by local farmers and across the fields to learn about agriculture.
Four stations now teach the children about beef, dairy, crops and gardens on an hour-long trek across the AgCenter, located off East Allens Bridge Road.
The event began in Chuckey, when Ralph and Brenda Bowers opened their dairy farm to their son's third-grade class, according to Steve Hale, retired former director of the UT Extension Service in Greene County, who still volunteers for the event.
"[Bowers] just kept expanding it," he recalled.
This continued for a number of years until, in 2005, the event moved to what was then known as the UT Tobacco Experiment Station, now the AgResearch and Education Center.
At the UT Center on Tuesday, children learned how crops such as corn, cotton, wheat and switchgrass can become fuel, clothing, food products and more.
Master Gardeners Danny Crum, Lamar Neas and Michelle Bradley explained about the various growing conditions for each of the four crops and their popular uses.
"Greene County is a county of small farms, where we don't grow too many crops on a large scale," Neese explained.
Meanwhile, at the gardening station, Master Gardeners Sandee Cook, Gretchen Jay and Diane Crum taught about fruits and vegetables, as well as all the food products they produce.
"They are very well informed," Cook commented as the children readily answered questions and actively participated.
Among the items presented were herbs such as pineapple sage, plants such as a blueberry bush, and vegetables.
In a barn up the hill, UT Lecturer Jessy Shanks and her graduate students, Melissa Edwards and Christine Ely, performed an ultrasound on a pregnant dairy cow from Southland Dairy.
"They're asking good questions," Shanks said.
Some of their questions included the cost of an ultrasound, the weight of the heifer and her fetus, and the age of the fetus.
Finally, at the dairy station, Dr. Gina Pighetti and graduate student Randi Black described the dairy industry and how to keep dairy cows "happy and healthy."
This process includes providing about 70 pounds of feed a day and about 35 gallons of water, resulting in about 140 pounds of manure, Pighetti said.
"In a day?" a teacher exclaimed, horrified. "Holy cow!"
After exploring the four stations, the third-graders then returned to the main barn and tent to enjoy freshly-churned butter made by the Greene County Farm Bureau Women, as well as donated ice cream and milk.
The kids also heard a brief presentation by the Greene County Livestock Association, FFA and Greene County 4-H.
They also visited with horses, cattle, baby pigs, sheep and other animals.
The event is sponsored by the Greene County Partnership's Agribusiness Committee.