Thursday, October 17, 2019

30th Anniversary of Farm Field Days

Yesterday in the pouring rain, I spent the day at the Prince William County Fairgrounds volunteering at the 30th annual Farm Field Days. Between yesterday and today about 1,300 fourth graders, their teachers and chaperons will have enjoyed a field trip experiencing an 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. To pull off this annual two-day event requires many more people than the 6 person staff at the Conservation District, it required the help of more than 100 volunteers including Ecology Club students from Stonewall Jackson High School, the Master Gardeners, County Staff, Master Naturalists, “Homesteaders,” and our loyal friends and volunteer who year after year make this a great event.

Farm Field Days annually introduces the fourth-grade students from Prince William and Manassas schools to some of the basics of farming and natural-resources conservation. Students spend the day rotating through seven barns, with each barn highlighting an aspect of agriculture and ecology 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. 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.

This year I was coordinating the regions of Virginia barn where students learned about the land, the rivers and the geology of the Commonwealth and how that shaped our communities and our lives. The Ecology Club from Stonewall Jackson did a great job of engaging the students in hands on learning. 

The Prince William County Conservation District, which focuses on protecting and enhancing the county’s water and soil resources, puts on programs that teach students about agriculture and environmental science. Farm Field Days is our oldest program. However,  funding from the county that used to go to those programs was redirected to cover the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, so the Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of the conservation district, to fund the beyond-the-classroom learning opportunities, such as Farm Field Days and Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences continued. We raise money for these programs and our river monitoring programs through grants, donations, and the Farm to Table event in late August. None of this would be possible without the volunteers and support of the community. Thank you.

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