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May 19, 2003   Email to Friend 

KINDERGARTNERS VISIT PIKE COUNTY FARM
Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
May 19, 2003

Walter Murphy lets Troy Elementary School students hold baby chicks at one of his Pike County poultry houses.
LINWOOD, Ala.-- Agriculture is a $100 million a year business in Pike County, yet many of the children who live there have never set foot on a farm.

That's not the case, however, for almost 200 Troy Elementary School kindergartners. Thanks to a Farm Day held May 16 at Murphy Farms in Linwood, these youngsters not only have visited a farm, they have held baby chickens, petted pigs and taken a ride in a horse-drawn wagon.

Joe Murphy, who serves as chairman of the Pike County Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Division, said events like the Farm Day help strengthen the relationship between farmers and people who live in urban areas.

"It helps these kids realize what agriculture provides them on a day-to-day basis," Murphy said. "As farmers, we've got to tell our story, and we've got to start young. Children are much more impressionable than adults. If we can reach a few of them and help them understand how important agriculture is to each of us, it will be well worth it."

Joe and his brother, Walter, each have six poultry houses, and their father, Wayne, has eight. Together, they produce about 1.4 million chickens a year, according to their mother Mattie, who is an Alfa Insurance agent.

During the Farm Day, Walter let the children hold week-old chicks from one of his poultry houses while Joe talked to another group about pigs and goats. Joe and Walter's sister, Susan Davis, entertained the kids by showing them how to feed a calf with a bottle. And, Tommy Peacock and his horse, Charlie, took the youngsters for a wagon ride on the dirt road that cuts through the Murphy property.

Teacher Angela Cooper said this was the first time many of her students had been to a farm.

"It's a rare opportunity for them; it's something they will always remember," Cooper said. "The kids love it because it's hands on. They learn about the different animals and the different foods they provide."

Joe Murphy said he was asked to hold the annual event when illness forced long-time hosts Toby and Jewell Griffin to decline this year's request from the school. Susan, who recently completed her master's in education, knows several of the teachers at the school and suggested the Murphys carry on the tradition started by the Griffins.

Patty Cook accompanied her daughter, Allie, on the field trip. She said that before visiting the farm, the Troy Elementary School students completed a classroom unit on agriculture.

"They learned that bacon comes from pigs and boar hair is used to make brushes," Cook said.

When the teachers told the students they might not get to go to an actual farm this year, Ms. Cook said the children were devastated. So, she was relieved when the Murphys decided to take over the Farm Day.

"We just moved here from Colorado last summer, and Allie has never experienced animals up close other than in the zoo. Just to get to pet them and see them up close is wonderful," Ms. Cook said.

Joe Murphy said he could not have pulled the Farm Day together without the help of his family and friends. His Farm Day helpers included Walter, his parents, Susan and her husband, Chuck, neighbor Larry Doolittle and fellow Pike County farmer Jimmy Baker, who supplied the pigs and goats.

In addition to the Farm Day, Murphy said the Pike County Young Farmers also conduct "mini-farms" each year in which they take animals around to county elementary schools.


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