Farm living was the life for about 350 area youngsters Friday, who spent the better part of the day immersed in an environment of tractors, livestock and produce.
For the second consecutive year, the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce’s Agribusiness Committee — with help from Ogeechee Technical College, AgSouth, Keep Bulloch Beautiful, Farmers and Merchants Bank and the Kiwanis Club — invited area children taking part in local summer camps to get a frontline, hands-on introduction to the importance of agriculture in Bulloch County and the region.
Campers with the Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County made their way to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds for the committee’s second annual Farm Day.
Prekindergarten through fifth-grade campers took part in the event as a way to improve their knowledge of a business and lifestyle that has long been at the heart of Bulloch County.
“Our main goal is to raise agricultural awareness within the community. Kids are the most impressionable group of people in Bulloch County, and they are the ones who know the least about agriculture,” said Katie Stringer Page, co-chairwoman for the event. “They don’t always know that eggs come from chicken, or that their clothes come from cotton — which are all produced right here. So we host this event to help them gain an understanding.”
The key to garnering that knowledge, Page said, is having an opportunity to learn, not from television or chapters in a textbook, but by seeing, touching and doing.
To accomplish that goal, the committee set up 12 stations around the fairgrounds, each dedicated to showcasing a different aspect of agricultural life.
In a far corner of the grounds, children walked through an area filled with livestock — where they had a chance to look at or interact with cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits and a goat. A short walk away, two buildings were reserved to teach the kids about area crops and their importance to the local economy. There, kids identified cotton, butterbean bushes, corn, soy beans and more — often playing games that rewarded them for recognizing plants the quickest.
At other locations, campers put to work their own green thumbs — first learning about seeds and how to properly plant them, then digging in and sowing their crop. Forestry personnel were on hand to display various items produced with indigenous trees — items that range from chewing gum and toilet paper to toothpaste and lumber.
Other visitors showcased tractors and harvesters — in most cases, letting the kids take turns behind the wheel of the parked vehicles — and taught the importance of safety. Georgia Power Co. conducted demonstrations on electrical safety while forestry employees taught children how to prevent forest fires.
“The children learn a lot and they really enjoy it,” said Andrea Whitfield, co-chairwoman of the event. “They get real excited about seeing the animals and checking out each station. It is a great community event.
“We feel like the kids really need to be exposed to agriculture,” she said. “It is one of the biggest industries here in Bulloch County. They get exposed to it some in school, but we wanted to give them a really hands-on learning experience — get them out here with tractors, handling crops and planting seeds.”
Other activities for campers included a station for making healthy snacks — where they baked apples and shelled peas — an area to paint a mural that featured things learned throughout the day, and a station to hear about the life cycle of a chicken (from a lecture and video presented by chicken farmers from Claxton).
Organizers say the event, like last year’s, was a great success and received enthusiastic reviews from campers.
The committee hopes to host the event again next year.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.