County agriculture event a success for students

UNION COUNTY, NC — Union County’s first Wake Up to Agriculture event at the county’s new agriculture special events center was a success, according to county and school officials.

The annual-themed day introduces the county’s third graders to farming, animal and energy agriculture careers.

For the first time in 2022, the week-long event was held in one spot, as the local public schools took turns bringing students to the special events center.


What You Need To Know

  • Roughly 3,600 Union County third graders received an introduction to agriculture careers
  • The students cycled through booths with information about farming, animal care, energy production and other agriculture-related fields
  • This was the first year all the county’s third graders attended the same building and booths for the Wake Up to Agriculture Day event

“The reason why we moved to this facility is because it allows all of our students to have the same experience across the board,” said Union County Public Schools’ career readiness director Brian Davis. “Some of our schools had different facilities than others and made for a different experience. We wanted to make sure they all had equal opportunity.”

For the roughly 30 previous years of Wake Up to Agriculture Day, local high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) clubs would host the day for the surrounding elementary schools.

Instead, more than 3,500 third graders descended on the county’s new building for a few hours each day, cycling through the various booths and animal exhibits.

One of those booths was staffed by volunteer Carter Bolln, an employee of Basket Case Farms. Bolln has been growing herbs and spices since he was a kid.

“Personally, I love to grow the best basil so I can produce really great pesto. Growing up, it was either marina, red sauce or green sauce made of basil pesto. And so, that’s one of the main passions that I have,” Bolln said during a break in presentations.

His pesto passion eventually turned into a farming career. Now, he’s teaching kids and adults about hydroponics, or growing plants in water.

“Essentially, the roots are suspended in a nutrient-rich liquid solution, just like vitamin water,” Bolln explained.

He was more than happy to give the county’s third graders an opportunity to see farming and agriculture careers first hand, hoping it one day inspires them to follow in his footsteps.

“Instilling and showing them different technology and systems and set-ups, it’s something that I think will really just turn on light bulbs and allow them to be personally and intrinsically motivated to want to do something like this and produce their own cilantro for their own salsa,” Boln continued.

Bolln, a former science teacher, explained hydroponics to each class for a few minutes and then let the kids take their own cilantro plant, hoping it grows the imagination. His lessons were making a quick impact impact on third graders like Lahna Thomas.

“I honestly didn’t know that plants couldn’t grow without soil, so I learned that,” Thomas said with cilantro plant in-hand.

Thomas was having a good day with her class and said she saw lots of plants and animals.

“Horses, cows, baby cows, sheep or goats, either one,” Thomas said.

County public school and 4-H officials say the annual event is meant to foster career ideas and inspiration for the children. Bolln said this introduction is important as the country needs future farmers.

“You see I’m excited, I’m really happy that I got to share some of the information. I think they got value out of it and had a good experience and also learned something. Hopefully they can take this experience and information to back to school or back to their house,” Bolln said after another group of third graders cycled through his demonstration.

Bolln and other volunteers were planting a little seed in each mind, which they one day said could grow them into farmers.

Union County is a very diverse county, and it has a lot of agriculture industry and business for students to get involved in.

“And what we want to do is make them aware of all those opportunities at a younger age,” Davis added.

Union County’s 4-H agent, Crystal Starkes, agreed, saying it’s an important part of growing interest in these career fields.

“Career exploration, that’s really what we’re doing. It’s helping them to find their careers, find their interest and things that they want to do for the future. Because it’s all about them becoming productive citizens,” Starkes said during the event.

More than 30 classrooms were represented over the week, receiving an introduction to farming, animal care, energy production, heavy machinery and other agriculture topics.

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