Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Agriculture hosted nearly 600 students from 26 local and regional high schools at its annual Agriculture Education Field Day Oct. 2.
This event, open to local FFA students and instructors, was an opportunity for students to explore careers in agriculture as well as agriculture-related topics, including grain bin safety, hazmat and farm equipment safety, water quality, greenhouse production and irrigation, soil health, rice milling, livestock and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
“Field Day is a great opportunity for young students to get hands-on experiences with various aspects of agriculture, learn about and see new things they might not have seen before, and have educational interactions with Southeast and industry experts,” said Dr. Julie Weathers, chair of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture.
“It’s an eye-opening experience for our students,” said Matt Blevins, FFA advisor with Bernie (Missouri) High School and 2015 Southeast alumnus. “An event like this gives students the opportunity to see first-hand where things come from and how things work in the agriculture field.”
The day’s events began at the Charles Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse, which includes the Charles Nemanick Alternative Garden on Southeast’s north campus, and concluded at the David. M. Barton Agriculture Research Center just south of Gordonville, Missouri.
More than 260 Southeast students, faculty and staff from the Department of Agriculture were on hand to provide instruction and guidance at several stations throughout the day. At the Barton Center, experts from the Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nu Way Rentals, Gordonville Fire Department and the University of Missouri Extension, Southeast Region and Fire Rescue Training Institute provided demonstrations and lent their expertise.
The day also offered learning opportunities for students interested in horticulture at the Hutson Greenhouse and Nemanick Alternative Garden.
“Students get a chance to see new things or maybe production on a larger scale,” said Dr. Sven Svenson, Southeast professor of agriculture. “Many high schools sell mums, and many of the schools sell mums that come from the Hutson Greenhouse. They got to learn about how we grow and care for them. Many students visit each year they are in high school. So, often they get the chance to see some of the projects being started and then come back and get to see them being completed.”
New this year, and one of the most popular presentations at the Barton Center, was a grain bin safety demonstration provided by the Region E Homeland Security Response Team (HSR) comprised of members of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, Jackson Fire Rescue, Sikeston Department of Public Safety and South Scott County Ambulance District.
As part of the demonstration, HSR team members showed students how they rescue someone who gets stuck in a grain bin. Southeast students volunteered to be trapped in a mock grain bin filled with corn to showcase the dangers of this situation, how to potentially pull oneself out, and the tools the HSR team deploys when responding to this dangerous scenario.
“It’s important to know the risks and how to reduce the risk of farm-related injuries,” said Capt. Robert Greif of Jackson Fire Rescue and the Region E HSR Team. “This has been a great opportunity to show them what we have to do to help someone in an emergency and for high school and college students to think about safety up front. It doesn’t get any more real than this. Hopefully, they can think about how to apply what they’ve learned on their family farm or in their next career.”
For Southeast student Rebecca Lewis, a junior agribusiness major, animal science option, from Centralia, Missouri, being a part of the grain bin safety demonstration was an eye-opening experience.
“I was only knee-deep (in corn), but I could really feel the pressure building on my calves, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to be completely covered,” she said. “It’s so important to know how to prevent it if possible, but also what to do in that situation or who to call for help if it happens.”
The day’s events also included a specialized training on soils judging for students to improve their competition skills in this area.
The success of Southeast’s Agriculture Education Field Day, which saw a large spike in attendance each year, is a testament to the industry volunteers; University students, faculty and staff; and the high school students who are always engaged and actively participated, Weathers said.
“We’re so excited to work with students from across southeast Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas,” Weathers said. “It’s such a great day to have students, professors and experts interacting, talking about agriculture and shaping the future of the industry. We’re very proud to be a resource for the local and regional area.”