PALMETTO, Fla. - The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences wants to plant the seeds of farming in a new generation by hosting third-graders at its AgVenture program at the Manatee County Fairgrounds.
"We have about 900 third-grade students that are out this year," shared Alexandra Draper the 4-H youth development agent for Manatee County. "AgVenture program is for third-grade students to come out to the fairgrounds and learn from local people involved in the agriculture industry."
The school systems plan these visits to get students exposed to farming and the real source of their food.
"I want them to know where their food comes from beyond just the grocery store," Draper explained.
Students learn about agriculture and farming during an AgVenture program in Manatee County.
That's where the UF/IFAS and presenters like Alyssa Vinson come into the picture. She is a residential horticulture agent there at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Services.
"Did you know that we can grow cabbages right here in Manatee County?" asked Vinson. "Getting a chance to grow your own vegetables really encourages those kids to eat those vegetables."
Her goal is to expose the kids visiting the program to the entire process that takes place on the farm. She knows that she's made an impact when everything clicks.
Third graders pet a calf during an Agventure program in Palmetto.
"Watching the spark shine in kids' eyes when they get to put their hands on a plant and in the soil and learn something they haven't learned before," she said. "When kids get a chance to experience learning rather than just hearing something in a classroom, it really changes their perspective, gives them an opportunity to feel, participate, smell, get really involved in what they are learning."
For both the school system and the IFAS, the real cultivation is in the hearts and minds of the students.
"There's tons of research that shows that experiential education is the best form of education, particularly for kids in this age range," admitted Vinson.
LINK: To learn more about the UF/IFAS programs visit https://ifas.ufl.edu/.