Thursday, October 22, 2015

Farm Field Days 2015

The kids and parents arrive for Farm Field Days

Yesterday and today I will spend my time at Farm Field Days. Our 26th annual Farm Field Days was held yesterday October 21 and today October 22 at the Prince William Fairgrounds. By the time we finish today about 1,600 fourth graders, their teachers and chaperons will have enjoyed our interactive learning program bringing the farm to the students. The Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District runs this annual field trip at no cost to the schools using volunteers and donations. This year we had 14 schools from Prince William County and the City of Manassas participating. To pull off this annual two-day event requires many more people than the 5 person staff at the Conservation District, it required the help of more than 100 volunteers including some 50 Ecology Club students from Stonewall Jackson High School. (Thank you, you were great!)

Students spend the day rotating through seven barns, with each barn highlighting an aspect of life on the farm using hands-on lessons. The animal barns never fails to amaze the kids by not only showcasing the full range of farmyard critters from bees to chickens and cows, but feature interactive demonstrations of how common products are made.

Demonstrations included wool spinning, butter churning, agricultural and industrial Regions of Virginia, trees and photosynthesis, and soil erosion through a science experiment, to name a few. Horsepower to High Tech tests the physical strength of a class of students to pull a tractor using math formulas to calculate horsepower. These demonstrations are geared to meet Virginia SOL (standards of learning) measures. Farm Field Days is a fun and engaging hands-on approach to teaching students about the agricultural world around them, and opening their eyes to the importance of protecting our natural resources.

For the past for five out of the past seven years I have be in the Regions of Virginia Barn teaching students about the land, the rivers and the geology of the Commonwealth and how that shaped our communities and our lives. Water availability and quality are critical issues facing all communities. An essential path to conserving our soil and water resources is by education our children on the value of these resources and making the connections to the natural world and our agricultural heritage. It is important for all our citizens see the connections and to understand the importance of keeping fertilizer and soil on the land, not in our streams, and how rain carries litter, dirt and other contaminants into our streams.

The entire Chesapeake Bay watershed is under a federal mandate to reduce sediment and fertilizer runoff into the bay in order to improve water quality. Experience has shown that the most effective way to protect water quality from runoff is through the District’s approach of cooperative and locally run programs. To succeed it is necessary for all to practice conservation. Good land management, promoted by the District’s programs, is essential to the sustainability of both our groundwater and our local farming community.

Heading back towards the buses

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