JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Over 200 hundred elementary children left their classrooms Wednesday to get an up close look at agriculture.
Students from Jonesboro's Micro Society Magnet School and Westside attended the Pizza Ranch at Allen Park Community Center. Students were taught not only all the ingredients involved in making a pizza, but where the ingredients come from.
Melissa Coles, Senior Human Resource Generalist for Farm Credit Midsouth, says they hold Pizza Ranch every year to give children an opportunity they might not otherwise have, "We like to give back each year during Hope Week." Coles said. "So, since we are an agricultural based company we like to give back in an agricultural way through education. That's what gave us the idea of Pizza Ranch a few years ago. By doing this, they understand then the pizza doesn't come from Pizza Inn or the grocery store. It goes through the layers of how the pizza is made from a cultural stand point."
There were 10 separate stations explaining the different ingredients and how everything works that the students rotated through. Six of the stations built the pizza.
They grow and harvest the wheat, make the dough, vegetables, meat and even the diary. There is also a soybean, rice and cotton gin station set up.
These stations are run by community volunteers that include the individuals involved in the manufacture of the ingredients and some local high school students.
Micro Society Teacher Taylor Harris says the event was far bigger than she thought it would be. "We had no idea there would be so many stations here. We figured it would just be the basics, like cheese. Before we came out here we thought the students would just see how pizza was made. Instead, the students are learning firsthand how all the different food groups are used and the entire process."
Coles says this hands on experience from the people actually manufacturing the ingredients is a great way to teach the children. "The kids get a really good understanding at a very young age why agriculture is so important to us in our day to day lives. We feel it's really beneficial for the kids to get to come out and participate because a lot of them don't understand agriculture and don't get an opportunity to go out to a farm or see how things are harvested or see how things are put together and how they're made. So, we try to break all of that down for them at this event."
Weiner High School student, Drake Melton, is in the Craighead County Team Leaders 4H and says he had a blast helping teach the children at one of the stations about beef. "I think this is great. It's all great. That's why I'm in 4H, truthfully, is just so I can get out and help my community and help everyone. Especially starting young, young is the best way to teach them."
This is the third year for the Pizza Ranch event and Coles says it gets bigger each time.
For more information about the Pizza Ranch and Farm Credit Midsouth, log onto their website.