Five buses pulled in front of the Bridgeport ISD Animal Science Facility Tuesday morning to unload 300 first and second graders for an Ag Adventure Day.
The children and their teachers prepared themselves to learn about farm animals and equipment. At the same time, FFA members and high school ag teachers geared up to show the youngsters their projects and how farming and ranching impacts the world.
For some students, it was their first exposure to the world of agriculture.
“The younger kids are the future, and they need to be aware of agriculture,” said Bridgeport FFA advisor and ag teacher Becky Deshazo. “Texas is becoming more suburban, and if they are not exposed to things like this, they will hurt the ag industry by voting against things that support it.”
Elementary students started the morning at the Southwest Dairy Farms mobile dairy classroom. Instructor Todd Griffin told the children about the products that dairy cows help produce and the nutrients that milk and cheese can provide.
Several excited screams came from the youthful crowd after Griffin moved Buttercup, the jersey cow, to the front of the mobile classroom.
“Buttercup had a baby about a year ago, and when she first had her calf, she made about 6 gallons of milk a day,” Griffin said.
He explained to the students that Buttercup’s calf couldn’t consume all the milk. Instead of letting the excess go to waste, he told the kids how farmers use the nutrients to produce dairy products for human consumption.
Anticipation and excitement filled the air when Griffin attached the milking machine to Buttercup, pumping milk into the large container.
Before heading off to different stations, Griffin informed the children about how milk is cooled and pasteurized.
Although the classes separated, the excitement continued. Two stations demonstrated cowboy culture as children tested a saddle and practiced roping a calf dummy.
FFA members asked the younger students if they had ever ridden a horse, explaining rodeo events.
Bridgeport Junior Gage Jones helped several elementary students successfully rope the dummy. While it may have taken several tries, Jones offered a high five and a word of encouragement.
At another station, Ag Teacher Michael Hanson described how tractors have improved farming.
“About 100 years ago, a farmer could only feed 20 people,” Hanson said. “Now a farmer can feed 135.”
Many of the first and second graders were eager to crawl up in the driver’s seat of the tractor for themselves.
Inside one of the ag classrooms, Ella Seay and other FFA members showed the elementary students how to make a living necklace. The necklaces carried a lettuce seed inside a damp cotton ball in a small bag. Seay instructed the students to place the seed against a window at home for it to germinate.
Outside, the kids interacted with the common animals found on a farm or ranch. From chickens to cattle, they enthusiastically petted the animals and asked the FFA members questions.
Junior Courtney Simmons introduced her show heifer and steer to the classes that approached their pen. Simmons plans to show the animals in the coming months at events like the Wise County Youth Fair, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Fort Worth Stock Show. Outside of school, much of Simmons’ time is committed to caring for the animals she has affectionately named Covergirl and Teddy. She believes it is important for kids to see animals and how they are raised.
“A lot of kids don’t get to see animals up close,” Simmons said.
FFA advisor and ag teacher Becky Deshazo agreed that the Ag Adventure Day is about exposing the next generation to a field they may find unfamiliar.
Deshazo was happy to see the FFA members educate the younger students. She believes it motivates them to develop confidence and speak out about their projects.
“Our kids are learning how to keep people’s attention and how to communicate about what they are advocating for,” Deshazo said.
After an educational morning, the elementary students boarded the buses again with a better understanding and a connection that extends beyond the classroom.