MTSU students carry a glimpse of agriculture to local schools

The schoolchildren couldn’t visit the MTSU Farm, so the farm came to the schools.

Numerous MTSU School of Agriculture students prepared special ag bags for more than 1,100 Rutherford County fourth graders and nearly 75 teachers.

This year’s Spring into Agriculture theme — “Planting the Seeds for Future Needs” — helped educate children and their families about the importance of agriculture.

In a partnership with Rutherford County Farm Bureau, the bags contained agriculture-related items, including crayons and coloring books, 4-H Club and wildflower seed packets, farm to fridge books, Beef Council, cow and Tennessee Electric pencils, something from Lucky Ladd Farms in Eagleville, Tennessee, and more.

The agritourism class and other agriculture students were joined by instructor Alanna Vaught and graduate teaching assistant Emily Gill in making deliveries recently to Eagleville, Thurman Francis, David Youree, Walter Hill, Buchanan, Blackman, Rock Springs, Homer Pittard Campus School, Wilson, Kittrell, Brown’s Chapel and McFadden School of Excellence.

For the second year, the issues related to coronavirus and COVID-19 and the need for students and teachers to be in a safe environment prevented an in-person visit to the MTSU Farm and Dairy in Lascassas, Tennessee.

Lorilei Richardson and James Jackson in teacher Joan Merryman’s science class at McFadden received an early peek of what the bags contained.

“We can enjoy these things,” said Richardson, 9, whose teacher’s interest in agriculture has begun to inspire the youngster “to do something with animals — be a veterinarian or science teacher” — once she starts her own career. Richardson is familiar with the popular Batey Farms in the Blackman community.

In acknowledging the items “will be something that everybody can play with,” Jackson, 10, “has done a lot of gardening” along with picking strawberries and blueberries at area farms.” His grandmother, Sarah Jessie, retired as Rutherford County Schools’ science coordinator.

Merryman said her students opened their bags April 6.

“We’re just grateful for all the goodies,” she said. “They get excited about planting the school garden” every year that includes cedar glades, cotton, okra, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, cantaloupes and pumpkins.

MTSU junior Emma De Las Sallas of Los Angeles, California, an elementary education major and agriculture minor, said the process “has been super important to give children a piece of agriculture to every child.” She and agribusiness alumnus Chris Brown delivered 75 bags to Thurman Francis in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Gill said a seed germination project is one of the biggest items in the students’ bag.

“They’ll be able to watch how a seed germinates and grows,” she said. “They’ll be able to see the restructure as it grows and make scientific observations in the classroom.”

Gill added the agritourism class, other students and Farm Bureau “got to pull a lot of resources together, to bring a little bit of agriculture into the classroom during these times.”

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