By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
The Fall season means pumpkins, hayrides, and harvest time. Thanks to the MVHS Ag Farm and local FFA students, almost 500 Clark County elementary students were able to experience this firsthand last week.
The farm hosted schools from all over Clark County, including local schools Perkins and Bowler elementaries, with about 160 kids a day rotating through various learning stations on the property.
The groups of mostly 2nd graders were taught by FFA students under the direction of Ag advisor Denise O’Toole and Farm Manager Kevin O’Toole. The kids learned everything from the life cycle of plants and plant pollination, to how to milk a cow and make homemade ice cream. Every student also went away with a free Halloween pumpkin they got to choose themselves out of the field.
Groups started out loading onto hay wagons when they arrived for a hayride to the pumpkin patch. Once there, they learned about plants and the plant life cycle before unloading the wagons and heading into the fields to choose their pumpkin. MVHS photography students took a photo of every student with their pumpkin so they could remember the day. Students also enjoyed a small petting zoo while waiting for everyone to finish, complete with goats and a miniature horse provided by MVHS ag students.
The tour did not end there, however. Cindy Hardy, Nevada State Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Chair; and Stephanie Bunker, Clark County Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Chair, next taught kids about where milk comes from. Many students were amazed that a good dairy cow can give up to 8 gallons of milk a day. The women taught them many other facts about the origin of food and the work that farmers and ranchers do that feeds the nation on a daily basis.
From there, kids got to taste the product of dairy cows as they help churned and sample homemade ice cream while listening to a story about farm life read by FFA students. The book, “Sleep Tight Farm” by Eugenie Doyle, is the American Farm Bureau’s book of the year. Farm Bureau provided a free copy of the the book, along with supplemental classroom materials to each school that toured the ag farm.
Students were also able to learn about chickens and where eggs come from. Ag student Laura Adams brought a few of her show chickens and let the kids handle them. Kids were amazed to learn about the different colors of eggs and how often chickens lay. Many of them had never touched a chicken before and some were unsure. But as each child took their turn, they expressed amazement about how soft the feathers were.
The greenhouse was next. Students saw towering tomato plants and lettuce growing from nothing but water. FFA officers Ryan McMurray and Makae Pulsipher explained how plants are pollinated. Pollination occurs naturally due to the hard work of bees, but Pulsipher pointed out that there are no bees in the greenhouse. She showed the students how use a “plant tickler” to stimulate pollination and let the kids try their hand at “tickling” flower buds until they saw the pollen released.
The field trips are a win-win situation for the farm, according to FFA advisor Denise O’Toole. Visiting students get to learn about agriculture’s impact on everyday life, while FFA students get to teach and demonstrate the things they have learned.
“This is one of the favorite activities of my FFA students and part of our ag advocacy program,” O’Toole said. “It’s been tremendously popular.
Hardy agreed that the message shared is important. “Farm Bureau comes and supports this because we want to make sure that kids know where their food and fiber are coming from,” she said. “Food doesn’t just magically show up in stores, it is a direct result of the work a farmer and rancher does.”