Farm Tour brings hundreds of students to outdoor classroom
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
After rain on Tuesday postponed the annual Farm Tour for fourth-graders in Blount County, skies cleared and the event was held Thursday for the seventh time on a Blount County farm.
This year the elementary school children were invited to the 250-acre farm owned by Dick and Martha Daugherty in Louisville, the same location as last year. The event, which is presented each year by the Blount County Farm Bureau Women, brings together a mix of area farmers who share their knowledge of raising cattle, growing crops and tending sheep with these youngsters, many who are visiting a working farm for the very first time.
Faye Rule of the Farm Bureau Women, said 552 fourth-graders came out Thursday, representing nine different schools. A host of volunteers are needed to host the event, said her husband J.D, Rule. They rely heavily on William Blount and Heritage High schools to provide student volunteers who can lead the groups around to the different learning stations.
“If it wasn’t for the two schools helpings us, we couldn’t do it,” J.D. said.
There were 21 different opportunities at learning. The farm visitors got to see and learn about beef cattle, horses, sheep, chickens and goats. The learned the process of making honey, tractor safety, the importance of planting a garden, veterinary care and how cheese is made. The groups of students were divided up and got to spend equal time at each station. “They get to see everything,” J.D. said.
And just like in years past, Lonnie Cooper and his six-day-old piglets were the talk of the town. Cooper has been raising hogs since 1959 and said he enjoys the interaction with these inquisitive fourth-graders each and every year. “It’s a great day,” he said. “The kids really love it.”
William England, a student at Maryville Christian, was brave enough to hold one of the squealing newborns. His first time. The tiny piglet let out an ear-piercing squeal before being handed back to its mother.
When asked if he might want one as a pet, England responded quickly. “No, my dog is good,” he said.
At another station, Calvin and Patsy Parton had one of their miniature horses for all to see. Students stopping by learned there are 75 million horses in the world and miniature horses were used to work in mines decades ago. Other fascinating facts these fourth-graders took home with them: the gestation period for horses is 11 months. And male horses have 40 teeth, females, 36. The average life span is 20 to 25 years.
“They asked some really good questions,” Patsy said. “I was glad I was prepared.”
The Partons own a farm in the Ellejoy community.
Down the path, Mary Gentry had some of the family’s goats for the students to pet and admire. They raise goats on their farm in south Blount County.
Goat milk, goat lotion, goat cheese and goat meat — these students discovered the many uses for the farm animal. There were even a couple of young goat twins available for petting.
Jessica Gentry, Mary’s granddaughter, works on the farm and said the family has in excess of 200 goats. She is a student at Heritage.
“It’s stressful at times,” Jessica said of farming. But it’s also rewarding. The students did ask good questions, but Jessica said she wasn’t stumped by any of them. “I’ve been well trained,” she said.
This will probably be the last year the annual event will be held at the Daugherty farm, which has been designated a Century Farm. It’s been in continuous operation for more than 140 years. The annual Farm Tour was held one year at Maple Lane Farm.
The day lasted until noon before the children, their teachers and parents loaded up and headed back to the indoor classrooms.