The realistic image of the modern farmer isn’t necessarily the man wearing overalls and riding a tractor that many pictures.
Agriculture, like most career paths, is an ever-changing industry with a variety of job opportunities and needed skill sets. It’s also one of the most important industries in Georgia.
A state initiative made a stop in Glynn County last week as part of an effort to attract more students to work in the state’s agriculture businesses and to alter perceptions of what it means to work in this field.
The “Georgia Ag Experience” visited Brunswick to showcase its mobile agricultural classroom for students participating in the Boys & Girls Club’s summer program.
Inside, the students experienced a 36-foot space filled with digital learning and interactive games that taught them about agricultural commodities in Georgia.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Georgia partnered with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to bring the mobile classroom to the Terrill Thomas Center. Clubs across the county brought their third-, fourth- and fifth-grade participants over so the students could spend about an hour enjoying the activities.
The Boys & Girls Club is serving about 1,200 students a day this summer.
The Georgia Foundation for Agriculture works with county farm bureau offices around the state to bring the trailer to elementary schools, community events and other organizations.
Eight stations inside the classroom offered education on commodities in the state like horticulture, poultry, peanuts, forestry and cotton.
Each station featured some kind of game to teach students about where Georgia’s agricultural products come from and how the products make it into local stores and markets.
“For instance, on this one she’s learning how to take care of her dairy cow,” said Natalie Bennett, educational program assistant, while looking down at the screen where a young student was curiously tapping her way through the activity.
“You have to milk it, the vet has to take care of them, you have to feed the cow to get the milk — that sort of thing.”
The Georgia Ag Experience is part of a three-step program steered through the foundation called “Seed, Grow and Harvest.”
“The ‘Seed’ program is for elementary-age kids that we want to get to go into those middle and high school ag programs,” Bennett said. “Our Grow’ program is more for college-aged kids and young farmers, and that’s to help them communicate with each other, and we have scholarship programs that they can apply for, internships and various things like that.”
The ‘Harvest’ portion of the initiative focuses on the needs of established farmers and research opportunities to help the state better serve them.
Bennett estimated that the mobile classroom served close to 200 students during their two-day stop at the local Boys & Girls Club.
The trailer was designed to be STEM-focused in order to engage students who are part of a generation familiar with technology.
The interactive activities each used some form of tech, and the entire experience is intended to in part change young students’ perceptions of modern farming, Bennett said.
The goal is to expose elementary-aged students to ag programs and spark interest in a path that will lead them to a career in agriculture.
Georgia is dependent on its agriculture industry, but many farmers are reaching retirement age at a time when there’s not enough younger farming professionals to replace them.
“We just tried to make a fun first step for them because a lot of students don’t see agriculture until middle and high school, and then they’re not really interested in it,” Bennett said.
Anyone interested in bringing the Georgia Ag Experience mobile classroom to their school is asked to contact Glynn County’s Farm Bureau agent.