Third graders at Chocachatti Elementary School, along with members of the 4-H Club were treated to a very special learning experience on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 to celebrate Ag Literacy Day. Dubbed an Ag Venture program, individuals representing various phases of agriculture paid a visit to the school to demonstrate and explain all about Florida’s agricultural industry.
Organized by Valerie Ansell, Florida Farm Bureau Federation District 5 Women’s Leadership Chair and members of her committee, the program allowed children who may have never been to a farm to have a hands-on experience.
Ms. Ansell stated, “I have a passion for educating our youth about all aspects of agriculture. This is one way we can bring together different commodity groups to do that.”
The two-hundred students broke into small groups and rotated among five different stations representing some of the various phases of agriculture.
Debbie Benedict and Louella Harper, representing the Hernando County Cattlewomen explained all about by-products of cattle. Ms. Harper’s daughter, Amelia, held up a poster with an outline of a cow showing what parts render what by-products. The children were surprised to learn that a lot of items besides meat come from cattle. These include additives to cake mixes, lotions, candles, leather for boots, crayons, glue, gelatin, dog food and even marshmallows.
Wayne Benedict representing Head and Heel Ranch talked about what cowboys do. He brought one of his horses so the students could have a chance to see it up close and to pet it. Benedict demonstrated lassoing and cracking a whip. He even let the kids take turns pretending to be a cow while he lassoed them.
Division of Forestry Firefighters talked about the equipment they use to fight forest fires. Brad Weller, Francis Neely, Matt Stevenson and Jason Packard discussed forest fire prevention and how fires are fought. The children were thrilled when they were allowed to operate the fire hose and talk on the two-way radio.
Carmen Fraccica, a local beekeeper explained how honey bees are raised and how honey is made. He has 400 hives and each hive can produce 120 pounds of honey. Fraccica is also a beehive inspector with the Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services. He played a game with the students in which he showed pictures of various fruits and vegetables. He then asked the children to guess which ones required pollination from bees.
Members of the Farm Bureau Federation District 5 Women’s Leadership Committee spoke about forests. Caroline Shelton and Juanita Sikes read an Ag Literacy story book entitled "Forever There's a Forest" to the children.
Fourteen teachers participated in the program. They were given a basket of items to use in their classrooms, such as posters, coloring books and pencils. The Forestry Department also planted an East Palatka Holly Tree and dedicated it to the Native Farmers of Chocachatti 4-H Club.
Silvina Doherty, Micro Coordinator at the school commented, “Living in the state of Florida where 1/3 of the land is used for agriculture, it is important to show children the possibility of agricultural careers. Our Micro Society exposes children to the opportunities that an agricultural career can provide and the value of this science for their environment and community.”
Third graders Katlyn Chesko and Zeke Redmile, expressed the sentiments of many of the students.
“I learned that cows can make chalk and marshmallows,” remarked Katlyn.
“The part I liked best was the bees,” commented Zeke.
The children were captivated by all the activities and enthusiastically ran from one station to the next. They learned many new and interesting things about this important part of our economy.