ELIZABETHTOWN — Ag’em Up Days, a two-day agricultural field day adventure for Bladen County third-graders, was held on Oct. 7-8 at the Bladen County Parks and Recreation field and picnic area located on U.S. 701 in Elizabethtown.
Bladen County Cooperative Extension, Bladen County Farm Bureau, Cape Fear Farm Credit, Bladen County Livestock Association, Four County Electric, Bladen Soil and Water Conservation District, Murphy-Brown, LLC, Prestage Farms, N.C. Rep. William and Brenda Brisson, the N.C. Blueberry Council, Inc., West Bladen High School FFA, East Bladen High School FFA and the Bladen County Board of Education worked together to create this annual opportunity to show the importance of agriculture to the students.
More than 400 third-grade students, their teachers and parents took a closer look and experienced first-hand agriculture — the No. 1 industry in Bladen County. Bladen County has a diverse agricultural economy with the farm value of all commodities exceeding $380 million. Bladen County is ranked No. 6 in the state in total value of all agriculture and No. 4 in the state for value of livestock, dairy and poultry.
Eight specialized stations, manned by more than 60 volunteers, comprise this farm field-day event. The content of each station focused primarily on agriculture in the county, but one experience emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Among the topics and experiences, the 3rd graders learned about field crops, swine, beef, goats and poultry, horticulture, beekeeping, soils and the environment, tractors and technology, and the nutrition of our food. Hands-on activities engaged the students to make the learning experience rich and fun.
More specifically, at the agricultural stations, students learned about corn, cotton, peanuts, and soybeans. Students identified the parts of a plant and how each one is important in producing the food we eat. The students learned how pigs, poultry, goats, and cattle are raised, the products that make up their feed, where they live, and who keeps them healthy. The students participated in an experiment that taught them the importance of the soil that grows their food. At the nutrition station, students learned about the importance of eating healthy foods and what eating too much fat can do to their bodies. They also enjoyed a healthy snack and learned about the importance of physical activity.
The students learned about plant growth and the different plant parts at the horticulture station along with the importance of blueberries to Bladen County’s economy. At the beekeeping station, the students were introduced to the importance of bees to making our fruits and vegetables grow and they saw the equipment it takes to become a beekeeper. At the tractor station, students learned how important technology is to farming and got to sit on a tractor.
Ag ‘em Up Days occurs annually in Bladen County during October, which happens to be National Farm to School Month. Field days like Ag ‘em Up help our youth recognize and experience how closely each of our lives is touched by farming and agriculture. It is not just a part of our history in Bladen County – it is critical today that we celebrate these connections to local food sources.
Stacie C. Kinlaw is the Bladen County Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development.