Published on 05/10/13

UGA-Tifton Campus holds annual Agricultural and Environmental Awareness Day

By Clint Thompson

Area third graders got a chance to get outside and explore Thursday morning on the Tifton campus of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

As part of the campus’ annual Agricultural and Environmental Awareness Day, almost 900 students from Tift County, Cook County and Turner County were on campus learning about various subjects consistent with what’s being taught in the classroom. The topics included the sun’s effect on the Earth, cotton, the importance of animal agriculture, insects, plants, recycling and solar energy.

“Our main goal is to teach and educate. A lot of these kids, this is the only way they’ll ever have any communication or anything to do with the farming community or agriculture,” said Benjie Baldree, program manager and a researcher on the UGA-Tifton Campus. “Everybody just loves to get outside and enjoy the weather and have a good time. We’re trying to educate them as well as let them have some fun.”

According to Baldree, between 75 and 80 volunteers helped with the event. Amongst those volunteers were UGA Peanut Agronomist John Beasley and Worth County Extension Agent Larry Varnedoe. Beasley talked about how the sun warms the Earth and its effect on different plants. Varnedoe’s discussion revolved around the importance of animal agriculture.

“The main thing I wanted to get across to these kids is (let them know) where does food come from. It doesn’t come out of Winn-Dixie or Wal-Mart. It has to come from some place else,” Varnedoe said. “My main objective is to try to educate these kids about where food fiber comes from.”

“They’re third graders, they’re enthusiastic, they’re glad to be out of the classroom. I try to remind them that they’re in an outdoor classroom,” Beasely added. “They think it’s a lot of fun. I hope they take away from a day like today how important agriculture is, how important the environment is and why we’re here at the University of Georgia.

“(We’re here) to try to help produce the information and data that helps protect our environment and help our farmers produce higher quality and more productive food.”

Glen Harris, an Extension agronomist with UGA, was happy to engage the students in a discussion about what plants need to thrive.

“Even in a rural area like Tifton, Ga., there (are) kids that don’t know as much about agriculture as you would think,” Harris said. “They’re good groups. The teachers do a great job. They do seem to get a lot of it.”

Students and teachers look forward to Agricultural and Environmental Awareness Day, said Joe West, assistant dean on the Tifton Campus.

“The kids ask a lot of good questions. They’re interested,” West said. “Our folks have been doing this for so long they really know how to make it fun. When they make it fun, the kids interact. It’s really a good experience for the kids and they respond very positively.”

This is the first of two awareness days that UGA will host this year. These same third graders will return to the UGA Tifton Campus in the fall as fourth graders.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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