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Youth get firsthand look at agriculture

July 2, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Fifth-graders from Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools got a close look at the part animals, plants and the environment play in their lives and possibly, their future careers, through the first Brooke County Ag Day held 1at Brooke Hills Park.

During each school's visit to the park - Follansbee's on May 25 and Wellsburg's on May 26 - the pupils visited ten stations where they got a close look at various farm animals and participated in activities aimed at teaching them the role that agriculture and related areas plays in their lives.

Ruby Greathouse, a member of the Northern Panhandle Resource Conservation and Development Council, said the event was inspired by an Ag Day sponsored by the council in Marshall County.

She said the Brooke County event was a collaboration of many groups, including the NPRC&D, Brooke County Commission, the county's school board, economic development authority and park and recreation commission, Brooke Hills Park staff, Northern Panhandle Conservation District and Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service.

Through several stations set up on the park grounds and discussions at a park shelter, the pupils were exposed to a variety of subjects.

Joan Simonetti Beck of the Brooke County Economic Development Authority, discussed various types of fields, all tied in some way to the environment, the youth may pursue in the future.

Farming is an obvious one, she said, but they also could become a forest ranger, park manager, landscaper or environmental inspector.

Beck encouraged them to try different kinds of work by volunteering, adding a variety of experiences may be helpful in the ever changing job market.

"Where you start might not be where you end up," she said.

Amy Cross, a veterinary assistant with Dr. Holly Kossuth of Community Care Animal Hospital, brought her horse, Jazzy, and discussed caring for horses and careers in veterinary medicine.

Cross said just as there are medical specialists for people, veterinarians may specialize in cardiology, oncology and other branches.

Jennie Arnold of the Brooke County WVU Extension Service talked to the children about growing their own fruits and vegetables in a small garden in their backyards.

She gave each with seeds and instructions on how to plant them.

Because many of the children were invited to pet the horse, cow and alpacas at the event, she also stressed the importance of washing one's hands to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Arnold said City Plumbing, Heating and Supply, which provided the seeds; and Ohio Valley Septic, which provided portable hand-washing stations; were among businesses that supported the event.

Alicia Cassels, also a Brooke County WVU Extension agent, simulated the effect of an oil spill on an ocean through a hands-on experiment funded by a grant from Toyota.

Cassels explained bottled water is tinted with blue food coloring, then oil is added. While it's true water and oil don't mix, there is sufficient immersion to affect fish and other aquatic life in the ocean, she said.

Becky Harlan, recycling program coordinator for the Brooke County Solid Waste Authority, told the pupils how the board collects metals, glass and paper at various sites and transports it to recyclers who turns it into new products.

Recycling makes the most of the earth's resources, she said.

Several of the pupils from Follansbee Middle School were asked about the experience during their visit to the park.

Dawson Tirabassi said he learned from local beekeeper Phil Greathouse that beekeepers mark the queen bee with a small patch of paint to distinguish them and different colors are used to indicate when the queen was introduced to a colony of bees.

Tiarbasi said he would like to try beekeeping one day.

Greathouse challenged his young visitors to guess the number of bees in his colony. Many were surprised to learn there were more than 3,000.

Aleigh Edgar said she was surprised to learn some chickens lay eggs a color other than white. She said she also enjoyed petting the cow.

Ruby Greathouse said some of the children hadn't visited the park, so the event also helped to promote it to potential new visitors.

(Scott can be contacted at

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