KILLEN — Agriculture is ingrained in our daily lives, and a group of sixth-graders from Hibbett Middle School learned just that Wednesday as they toured several farms across Lauderdale County.
Students spent most of the day popping in at nine different stops at seven locations across the county as part of the annual Lauderdale County Farm City Tour.
According to county Extension Coordinator Heidi Tilenius, the day has two goals — to educate students about where their food comes from, and to show them how many different careers are interwoven with the agriculture industry.
“There are thousands of jobs that go unfilled every year because there’s not people to fill them,” Tilenius said, noting that one in about four jobs in Alabama are related to agriculture and natural resources. “Years ago, we all had somebody that lived on a farm. Nowadays, we don’t have as much of that.”
Students spent part of the day touring different areas of Wes Hamner’s farm in Killen.
Hamner, a fourth-generation farmer, said his farm has poultry, cattle and row crops like corn, wheat and soybeans.
“I think the one thing I love when we talk to these guys is they are accountants, they are chemists, they are marketers,” Tilenius said. “All of the skills that you might segment out, they have to have all of them.”
Students in the Future Farmers of America chapters at Florence and Lauderdale County high schools served as bus tour guides.
Allen Thornton Career Technical Center Principal Gary Dan Williams, a United States Department of Agriculture meat inspector and a poultry worker-turned Winston County Extension coordinator, all volunteered to lead some of the tours.
Students watched in wonder as they learned about cattle and chickens, though many also enjoyed learning about the greenery around the farm.
“The woods was pretty fun,” said Carmen Gonzalez. “We looked at a lot of leaves, and it was pretty fun. I liked how they told us about the different types of leaves and how caterpillars like it.”
Parker Davis said he also enjoyed learning about the woods, particularly earthworms.
“They said one of the signs of good dirt is a lot of earthworms, and we found a lot of them,” he said.
While he hasn’t considered working in agriculture before, Davis said the tours have changed his outlook.
Hamner said food in this region largely comes from family farms like his.
“I think a lot of people nowadays is starting to think it’s more corporate farming … but around here, it’s mostly just family farms either their great-granddaddy or grandfather or dad started, and that’s just the way of life. It’s a job. That’s my livelihood.
“It’s a good life," Hamner said. "There’s no doubt it is.”