Field day gives youth a look at agriculture

Brandy Orlando, LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter associates, from left, Damian Rausin, Montrez Whitley, Brandy Clampit and Angelino Denny demonstrate sweet potato planting during LSU AgCenter Northeast Region youth field day at the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station on Sept. 23.

CHASE, La. – More than 200 students from 12 parishes in northeast Louisiana watched sweet potatoes being planted and heard about beef and forage production, and careers in agriculture. It was all part of the LSU AgCenter second annual Northeast Region youth field day at the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station on Sept. 23.

     The event provides real-world information on the importance of agriculture and the effects it has at the personal, regional and state levels, said Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter northeast regional director.

     “It’s an opportunity for youth to learn firsthand all that agriculture has to offer,” Smith said.  “Agriculture is the backbone of the economy in our area; the youth are our future. Educating them about the importance of agriculture and educational and career opportunities available to them is critical.”

     A Mini Ag Career fair gave students a hands-on opportunity to learn about ag-related careers. Participants had an opportunity to visit with agricultural research and extension faculty, industry representatives and a veterinarian. 

     Youth also heard about the LSU College of Agriculture and educational opportunities offered in the LSU School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Agricultural Extension Education and Evaluation.

     “The ultimate goal is to get more kids interested in careers related to agriculture,” said Terri Crawford, the regional 4-H coordinator who helped organize this event.

     The students saw how labor intensive sweet potato production is during a demonstration of the equipment is used in sweet potato production and planting. They also heard about the economic value of sweet potatoes in Louisiana, the U.S. and internationally and how it relates to world trade. Total value of Louisiana sweet potato production, including value added of $50 million, was $116.8 million in 2014, according to the LSU AgCenter AgSummary.

     Numerous career opportunities are available in sweet potato production, including research, manufacturing, production, marketing and value-added processing and other aspects, said Myrl Sistrunk, an extension associate at the station.

     Area horticulture agent Rafash Brew explained why it is important for farmers to understand their soil and demonstrated proper soil sampling to determine nutritional requirements for crops.

     Duncan Miller, a tenth-grader at Tensas Academy, was interested in learning about sweet potato production.

     “It was pretty interesting to see how they plant the sweet potatoes and the different soil testing and fertilizers needed,” he said.

     Students saw different cattle breeds while learning about animal and herd nutrition, marketing and the equipment and facilities involved.

     Stephanie Sharp, an eighth-grader at Beekman Charter School in Bastrop, was interested in learning about the cattle business.

     “Seeing the cattle was my favorite part,” she said. “I learned that it takes a lot of hard work and money to get into the cattle business.”

     The students also heard about agricultural best management practices, including insect pest management and scouting procedures for crop protection, weed management and environmental stewardship.

     “This event provides a great experience for youth in our region. We are already looking forward to planning for next year,” Smith said.