Agriscience and Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from Montevallo High and Shelby County High Schools had a unique opportunity to discover the impacts of agriculture and forestry on a recent two-day field trip.
The students boarded a charter bus early on October 18, where they traveled to Auburn and spent a few hours discovering forestry through hands-on experiences. The Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest is 400-acre woodland given to Auburn University for the specific purpose of demonstrating sustainable timber harvesting and management techniques for educational outreach purposes. Auburn School of Forestry, Alabama Forestry Association and Caterpillar Equipment all made it possible for MHS and SCHS students to have a private tour and demonstration of this property. The students were able to view a variety of stages and methods of management of pine trees, as well as learning environmental laws presented by Dr. John Kush of Auburn University. Dr. Kush also introduced the students to many degree options available through the University.
One exciting aspect of the tour to many of the students was the opportunity to climb aboard timber harvesting equipment. Caterpillar Equipment utilizes the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest to demo new equipment, harvest timber to sustain university programs, as well as instructional usage for students.
Dr. Tom Gallagher demonstrated how feller-bunchers, skidders, and log loading equipment are used in a standard harvesting procedure in the southeast. He explained the different uses of pine trees for pulp, saw timber, poles, and biofuel and the value of timber in various stages of growth. To conclude the tour, Ashley Smith with Alabama Forestry Association offered insight to many career options in forestry including growing, managing, harvesting, and processing.
On October 19, the students attended the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition in Albany, GA. The Expo, which has been in operation for 39 years, has grown to be the largest of its kind in the United States. Colleges and universities, equipment manufacturers, production specialists, livestock associations, vendors, and government agencies all come together to promote their latest products and how they can benefit producers as well as consumers.
The Expo is located on 600 acres of land, and approximately 400 acres are used for tillage, planting, management, and harvesting demonstrations for various crops such as soybeans, corn, cotton, peanuts, and even turf grass. Universities such as Florida, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia, and Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College were also in attendance promoting research and instruction in various fields of Agriculture.
Montevallo High School Principal Brandon Turner said events such as these allow students to see first-hand the impact of topics that are learned in the classroom have on society.
“The objective of a trip like this is to spark an interest in students and to promote careers paths that take a variety of methods to arrive at them,” said Turner. “For those that do not choose one of these topics as a career, it will allow them to be more knowledgeable and educated members of society.”
“This tour was a great opportunity to open doors to new experiences and to meet new people that will help me in the future,” said Kate Frederick, Montevallo FFA President.