Ninth Grade Ag Expo presents possibilities

When ninth grader Tripp Sauls thought of agriculture, he thought it was just raising plants or animals. After experiencing the first annual Ag Expo hosted by UGA Cooperative Extension Carroll County, he has a whole new perspective.

“I was amazed at how big agribusiness is,” Sauls said. “The booths ranged from little garden stores to big industrial plants like Flowers Bakery to the game warden.”

Sauls may not be the only one amazed at the economic impact of agribusiness in Carroll County, known as farm gate value. It is approximately a quarter of a billion dollars annually.

More than 300 students from Carroll County Schools, Carrollton City Schools and the College and Career Academy visited representatives from 33 different organizations, businesses, and educational institutions such as the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service,

Printpack, UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, and the Crager Hager Farm — just to name a few.

“Our planning committee targeted this age because ninth grade is when students are picking their career pathway,” said Paula Burke, Carroll County Extension Coordinator, UGA Cooperative Extension Service.

“There are many career expos out there but not many that concentrate on agricultural fields,” Burke continued. “Data is showing that there are not enough potential college graduates to fill the number of jobs available in agribusiness.” Tripp admits he had no idea the industry was so diverse yet so inter-connected .

“It surprised me when I realized how many very different jobs it takes to come together to provide our food,” he said. “The USDA works to protect land use so the farmer can grow the highest quality of goods so the industry can produce a quality final product for the consumer — a full circle.”

According to Heidi Remy, counselor at Villa Rica High School, Sauls was rewarded at the Expo for his inquisitive nature. He was given a prize from Flowers Bakery for asking good questions.

“They said they enjoyed my company,” Sauls said. “They encouraged me to keep asking good questions — that’s how you discover more than is first presented.”

According to Burke, teacher evaluations of the Expo praised the one-on-one opportunities it provided for students to get personal attention. “Overwhelmingly positive” evaluations also commended the variety of vendors representing a good mix of career pathways and providing a good overview of the agribusiness opportunities in Georgia.

Tripp is interested in math and science and the Expo demonstrated how much those two subjects are used throughout agribusiness.

“Vets and people in wild life control use science all the time. For example, you would have to know the science of wind patterns to understand bird migration,” he noted. “A lot of calculation goes into figuring out how many crops can safely be produced on one area of land. I was really surprised in how much math and science supports the knowledge of land use.”

Tripp is one smart young man. After talking with several of the different representatives, he posed a question.

“Who wants to eat chicken that has come all the way from China if you can get it from a Carroll County farmer?” he asked. “If only our country could become self-sufficient with our food supply and not depend on so many other countries to keep us well fed and healthy.”

Burke said the planning committee, with representatives from Farm Bureau, Carroll EMC, UGA Extension, local ag teachers and school administration, have already determined the date for next year’s event. (Financial supporters included Carroll County Farm Bureau and Huddleston Farm).

“We have to open the eyes of the next generation that working the land is not the only avenue for an agricultural career.”