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Roots run deep in the Moundsville community and the fruits of these roots have been feeding the minds of Marshall County fifth graders through the annual Hands-On Agriculture Day.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Northern Panhandle Conservation District hosted the 11th annual Hands-On Ag Day at the Marshall County Fairgrounds in Moundsville on Wednesday, September 18 and Thursday, September 19, 2019.  Marshall County fifth grade students from all public and private schools participated. 

“The day is really unique because students gain firsthand knowledge about different aspects of agriculture in their county,” said Katie Fitzsimmons, NRCS District Conservationist.  “It’s a huge success because of the support from the school board, local agriculture agencies and organizations.  For the kids, it’s important for them to learn about how agriculture actually works and alleviate common misconceptions of where their food actually comes from.”

Students rotated through 11 stations that covered a specific aspect of agriculture such as soil, water quality, forestry, livestock and more. The purpose of the Hands-On Ag Day was to educate students and provide a better understanding of what agriculture is and how it plays a role in their own lives.

Retired Marshall County school teacher Mark Fitzsimmons serves as the Northern Panhandle Conservation District Supervisor and member of the planning committee.  Since 2009, the program has proven to reach more than 350 students and close to 250 adults, including teachers, parents, grandparents and siblings, each year.

“We want these kids to go home and know that milk doesn’t come from aisle 17,” said Mark Fitzsimmons.  “I believe we’ve lost one or two generations in the sense of knowing where their food comes from.  We have to get them back and I feel the best way to do that is through their kids.”

Teachers and local FFA Advisors also see the value in having their students participate as attendees and volunteers. Nicole Shipman is the Agriculture and Plant Systems teacher in addition to serving as the John Marshall FFA Advisor. Her students assisted at each of the different stations.

“Ag Day is a beneficial learning experiences that both our high school and elementary school students can experience,” Shipman said.  “The high school students interact with professionals of industry and demonstrate leadership by also assisting with the guiding students to the stations. Some students even assisted with presentations in their respective career fields including dairy, goats and beef.”

Participating agencies include: NRCS, Farm Service Agency, Northern Panhandle Conservation District, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Conservation Agency, WVU Extension Service, Marshall County Fair, Marshall County Farm Bureau, Marshall County Commission, John Marshall Future Farmers of America and Marshall County Schools.