FARMtastic, an agricultural learning experience for second through fourth-grade students, is returning for its fifth year at Mississippi State University on Nov. 9 and 10 at the Mississippi Horse Park.
FARMtastic was first organized in Oktibbeha County in 2012 as a partnership between MSU Extension and the Mississippi Farm Bureau. The original FARMtastic’s target audience was third graders. However, the event has expanded its interests and locations over the past five years, now traveling across the state to educate more elementary school students.
Several of MSU’s own agricultural groups are helping FARMtastic teach the elementary students the importance of agriculture in their daily lives, including agricultural sorority Sigma Alpha and Animal and Dairy Sciences students, among others.
MSU Extension Associate Julie White created FARMtastic to educate kids at a young age how prevalent farming is in their lives.
“Agriculture affects our daily lives from the food we eat to the clothes we wear,” White said. “We couldn’t do anything without it.”
Kids will be led through a variety of hands-on activities, which will help them explore almost every facet of farming such as livestock, agronomy, horticulture, aquaculture, catfish and forestry. The last two are particularly pertinent in Mississippi—forestry being the number one industry in the state.
In addition, the elementary schoolers will be shown where farming enters the same places they visit every day, from the department store to their local pizza shops. The goal is to grow their appreciation of agriculture in the real world.
A soil tunnel, sponsored by Mississippi conservation groups, is the special feature of the yea . While digging around in the dirt, students will see the role soil plays in farming and table food.
A yearly favorite is FARMtastic’s animal exhibit. The exhibit will feature cows, chicks and horses, providing the students with the opportunity to feed, feel and learn more about farm animals. Also, the fisheries room will display live fish. Though the kids have fun throughout the whole event, the animals are always a crowd-pleaser.
Six-year volunteer Nelda Starks remarked children today are two to three generations removed from the farm experience. FARMtastic helps build the ties between everyday life and agriculture.
“The smiles on the children’s faces and their excitement as they go through the stations tells the whole story,” Starks said.
Upcoming events include the Delta FARMtastic in Sunflower County Nov. 16 and 17, FARMtastic Coastal at the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center in February, and FARMtastic in Lauderdale County on April 10 through 13.
Here at MSU, students can get involved to help make FARMtastic an even bigger success.
“Volunteer, help us keep kids educated about agriculture,” White said. “It’s important for the young ones to see older kids getting involved in agriculture.”