With dirt up to her ankles, 5-year-old Ella Dudley smiled and concentrated as she gripped her little fingers around the wooden handles of an antique plow. As two large mules slowly moved by the command of farmer Roy Hatcher, the blade made long narrow trenches as it gashed into the ground.
Close by, Leslie and Martha Dudley proudly grinned, chuckled and snapped pictures Saturday while watching their granddaughter enjoy one of many activities during Ag Day, hosted by Sampson County Cooperative Extension.
“We enjoyed it … they’re interested in doing a lot of different things,” Leslie said while speaking about Ella and his grandson, Samuel. “They love animals and every time they see one, they have to pet it.”
The event, held every other year at the Extension Center, allowed youths and families to learn about agriculture in a fun and exciting way. In farming, Ella’s work would have prepared for seeds to be planted.
“They learn things they wouldn’t normally learn in a home setting, if they’re not raised on a farm,” Leslie said. “A lot of kids don’t have that opportunity.”
Many families, vendors and agriculture related organization participated. Preparation for the event started in 2015 and required a lot of work from volunteers and extension agents.
“I think the turnout was really really awesome,” said Daniel Collins, extension agent for 4-H Youth Development. “It just goes to show that people support agriculture here. They learned about what we offer here in Sampson County and they also learned that we have businesses that deal with ag related things that they probably didn’t connect together.”
Different stations at the event educated goers about different industries such as pork, poultry and gardening. Some of them included Donnie and Alease Williams, owners of D&A Farm, who talked to Ag Day event goers about pastured hogs and services available by Cooperative Extension.
“We advised them to work with extension in order to get started,” Alease said. “A lot of people are interested and extension is the first step they need to get started and get the credentials.”
The couple’s small piglets received a lot of attention. Across the way, at a station manned by Prestage Farms, Inc., children enjoyed looking at live turkey poults in a model turkey barn. Summer Lanier, public relation director for Prestage Farms, Inc. was not shy about letting visitors know that the young birds may become food in the future.
“I hope they learn where their food comes from and how important agriculture is to their county,” Lanier said. “There’s more food grown for human consumption in Sampson and Duplin counties, more than any other place in the planet. And that makes us very special.”
David Lamm and Steve Woodruff, of Natural Resource of the Conservation Service, provided a rain fall simulator to demonstrate its effect on crops and soil. The goal of their presentations was to make farmers and citizens understand the importance of soil health.
“If you build healthy soils in our agricultural systems, not only is it a environmentally good thing to do, it’s also can be more profitable for producers as well,” Woodruff said following a presentation. “It can be a positive thing for everyone.”
Like many other presenters, he appreciated the learning aspect of the event, especially when it came to youths.
“You can help them see some of those educational things that are about agriculture and the environment as well,” Woodruff said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to show those folks that.”
Evanna Hall, a member of the 4-H Horse Club, enjoyed the event and appreciated the educational aspect as well.
“I think it’s good for our future and it helps people grow,” Hall said about agriculture and the event.
Eileen Coite, County Extension Director, said Ag Day was an amazing event with great weather and a good turnout. More than 850 people attended.
“I think we got a good combination and some great exposure to agriculture in Sampson County,” Coite said.
“I’m very proud to be in Sampson County and around the agriculture that we have,” Coite added. “I’m also proud of our cooperative extension staff for coming together and putting together a great event and for the community for supporting it.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.