Random and unexpected, 7-year-old Zoe Beard turned around in the spacious Tennessee Livestock Center main arena at Middle Tennessee State University and gave a total stranger a hug.
MTSU student Olivia Key was the recipient of the kind gesture by the Christiana Elementary School first grader, who was overjoyed by all the fun, excitement, sights and sounds of experiencing farm life under one roof.
“She wanted to give me a hug and told me she loved me,” said Key, 21, a senior integrated studies major and agriculture minor from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who is about to graduate. “She was so sweet. That made it all worth it.”
Key and her MTSU School of Agriculture agritourism classmates were on the receiving end of lots of smiles, questions and more from nearly 900 elementary school children attending the annual Agriculture Education Spring Fling Tuesday, April 11.
The agritourism students take the lead in putting together the spring fling — a series of activities in the main and a side arena that becomes a Barnyard Playground for the nearly hundreds of youngsters from Middle Tennessee Christian, Thurman Francis, Kittrell, Eagleville and Reeves Rogers attending the event.
Class instructor Alanna Vaught receives community support that brings live animals including extremely popular baby chicks, a rabbit, dairy and beef cows, a miniature horse, a lamb and a multiple world grand champion Tennessee walking horse, IB Smokin Joe, brought by 14-year-old twin brothers Tanner and Tucker Johnson from Stonewall Farm in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
“Our students and volunteers help change the lives of 870 children,” Vaught said. “We met the day before to talk about the event. I told them how gratifying it was going to be by the end of the day.”
Tractors, honey and beekeeping, the Little Acres section and cold chocolate milk from the MTSU Creamery were other farm tour stops before they had lunch and headed back to their respective schools.
The Rutherford County Farm Bureau, Rutherford County Farmers Co-Op, Hutchinson Farms and MTSU Block and Bridle club provided support.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
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