Scott County Women in Agriculture member Elis Holstein -- a native of Panama, South America, who lives in Sikeston -- presented information on how ferns are grown in Panama.
Holstein gathered the information when she visited her hometown this past year. While there, she contacted a farmer who grows 25 acres of ferns. She documented the visit with photographs, which were on display for students to see.
"The kids really like it, and they like to learn about different things," Holstein said. "They learned how to recycle and how to make compost."
Holstein's presentation began with her pointing out a flower arrangement featuring ferns. Using a map, Holstein pointed out Panama and chronicled the process of growing ferns through her photos.
"Compost is what makes the flowers beautiful," Holstein said.
Holstein explained when the base of the fern runs past a picker's elbow, they're ready for gathering. Then the ferns are packaged and shipped from Panama to Japan, which takes 30 days, she said.
Fern growers also use "worm tea" -- a liquid solution featuring worms -- to help the ferns grow. When the lesson was finished, students were invited to play with the worms.
This was the second year Holstein presented information based on her homeland's agriculture. Last year students learned how coffee is grown in Panama.
"They had never seen how coffee is made and all the work that goes into it," Holstein said. "All they see is the finished product."
About 230 students from 10 elementary schools participated in the countywide event sponsored by the Scott County Women in Agriculture Tuesday at the St. Lawrence Parish Center in New Hamburg.
Learning about how ferns grow in Panama wasn't the only farm lesson the students received.
Throughout the two-hour visit, students roamed 10 other stations in 10-
minute intervals, learning about pollination and plants; how local crops are raised and what products they make. They even had a chance to see dairy cows and goats.
Students also learned about farm safety through a puppet show put on by Scott County Central's FCCLA members.
Following a program from Farm Safety 4 Just Kids provided by Monsanto in Matthews, the high school students stressed the importance of farming and animal safety such as staying outside of a fence, how mother animals are protective of their young and how a bigger animal can be very damaging to a smaller person.
The older students also presented information on helmet and tractor safety at stations.
"I wish we'd have had this (farm day) when we were this age," said Alexa Barnes, a senior at Scott Central, who helped with the puppet show and tractor safety station.
As students ate foods made from farm products, they learned about antique farm items, which were available for viewing.
Scott County Farm Bureau had a booth displaying books and videos which teachers can use in their classrooms. Teachers also received supplies to promote agriculture in the classroom.
Anna Kern, a student at St. Denis Catholic School in Benton, said she learned not to get close to grain trucks and other safety measures to take so she doesn't get hurt on a farm.
"I liked learning about the flowers best," said Anna, who said she helps her mom in the garden.
Carol Messmer, Farm Day chair, said the annual event helps preserve agriculture.
"It's very important for the heritage and legacy of parents and grandparents to be passed on to future generations," Messmer said.
The event wouldn't be possible without support from the community, Messmer said.
"We seem to be lucky in getting people interested in educating the children about agriculture and willing to take this day and provide an opportunity for kids," Messmer said.
The women's organization is made up of about 25 active members. Its goal is to educate others about agriculture and to provide an atmosphere of fun, fellowship and support, Messmer said. In addition to Farm Day, this year the organization will award two $500-scholarships to area high school graduates. For more information about the organization, contact Kay Dover at (573) 545-9027.