8th Grade Agriculture Tours 2021

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N.C. Cooperative Extension in Henderson County collaborated with local farms and higher education to provide field trips for public school 8th grade classrooms in Henderson County. The purpose of these field trips were for youth to learn about agriculture and about careers in the industry.

Rugby and Hendersonville Middle Schools visited Jason Davis at North River Farm and the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center.

It was a beautiful crisp October day to tour the farm in the trailer, pick peppers for Society of St Andrews, step in the river to learn about water quality with Mills River Partnership, create mud balls with Soil and Water, and answer ag trivia at the farm. I learned about the layers of dirt, and how many bio-indicators there really are in the rivers. The trailer rides were really cool too.” – Hendersonville 8th Grade Student

Most students had never picked a pepper straight from the plant before. The moment was made extra special because North River partners with Society of St. Andrews to make sure extra food is given to those in need. “I would like to go again another day to learn more at the farm and to pick more peppers for the people who need them.” – Hendersonville 8th Grade Student 

The Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center provided its own set of unique activities. Youth visited researchers who discussed plant breeding and diseases in the labs, went outdoors to explore plant pathology in the orchard, plant pathology in the container greenhouse and learned why engineering is important to ag in the new produce handling building!

“I learned that there are a lot of different types of tomatoes. It was fun to learn about the different diseases and plant genetics. I was also interested in the tomatoes and how they breed types to make new kinds. I never knew that.” – Rugby 8th Grade Student

Apple Valley and Flat Rock Middle Schools visited Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard and Blue Ridge Community College!

While our pollinator friends have gone dormant for the winter, youth were buzzin’ at the Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard learning about bees, PH levels and harvesting of grapes, the beginning to end production of apples, and learning that being a farmer includes a multitude of career opportunities including marketing, sales, legal, entomology, horticulture, sciences, engineering, research etc.

“It was interesting how the value of an apple is decided by the spots and anything wrong with it.” – Apple Valley 8th Grade Student

Blue Ridge Community College introduced an assortment of careers related to the ag industry including Animal Science Livestock and Research, greenhouse grafting and production, horticulture, landscaping, and engineering! The speakers were wonderful additions to the tour with one 8th grader summing up her day to say: “I learned just how much I love farming already and that this is my dream job.” – Flat Rock 8th Grade Student

Thank you so much to the hosting sites, community partners, guest speakers, and Henderson County Public Schools!

Host Sites:

  • North River Farm
  • Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center
  • Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard
  • Blue Ridge Community College – Horticultural and Engineering Department

Guest Speakers:

  • Karen Blaedow  – Small Fruits and Vegetable Agent, Henderson County
  • Dalton Buchanan  – Soil and Water
  • Brittany Sumner and Maria R. Wise – Mills River Partnership
  • Jason Davis – North River Farms
  • Tom Kon – Agricultural Research Specialist
  • Nathan Lynch – Research Specialist
  • Irene Palmer – Research Specialist
  • Jeff Chandler – Director, MHCREC
  • Marvin Owens – BRAG Henderson County
  • Don Schwartz – BRAG Henderson County
  • Jim Poe – Bee Club, Henderson County
  • Bert Lemkes – Tri-Hishtel
  • Mike and Rita Stepp – Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard
  • Rachel Meriwether – Blue Ridge Community, Horticulture
  • Sharon Seuss – Blue Ridge Community, Engineering
  • Cearra Celbrade – Blue Ridge Community
  • Dr. Gary Hill – Hill Agnes Farm


  • Mary Maybin
  • Judy Swenson
  • Noland Ramsey

Community Partners:

  • Henderson County Public Schools
  • Mills River Partnership
  • Society of St. Andrews
  • Tri-Hishtel
  • Soil and Water
  • Henderson County Bee Club