Bringing the farm to you

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009



LAPLACE – Long-time farmer and Amite native Russell Roy understands that most children growing up in cities and suburbs rarely if ever get the opportunity to learn what it takes to tend to a farm. In an effort to imbue a little bit of agricultural knowledge in younger students, Roy decided to bring his farm on the road.

With the help of his wife – and about 100 different animals from his farm – Roy started the Red Barn Farm Tour as a way to give elementary and middle school students some hands-on experience with farming and animals. The tour made a recent stop at Ascension of Our Lord School in LaPlace.

“This is much more than just a petting zoo,” Roy said as he gathered up a handful of escaping ducklings. “It’s about educating kids about the benefits of good food and where that food comes from. It’s an opportunity for kids to reconnect with the food chain.”

After gaining the children’s attention by allowing them to touch and hold a plethora of baby bunnies, chickens and ducks from the barn, Roy sits them down for a brief discussion on farming life and what it takes to tend to a variety of animals.

Roy has organized a distinct lesson plan with the state Department of Education that ties into classroom studies. He discusses the breeds of animals he has on board and explains their value and importance.

“I explain to them how geese assist sugarcane farmers by eating away grass and nabbing insects,” Roy said. “I’ve also got a pair of messenger pigeons similar to those used to communicate during the World Wars. It’s great to see kids have their eyes opened to this world.”

Roy, who said he earned his animal science degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as University of Louisiana-Lafayette), explained farming is all he’s ever really known. He is an avid breeder of cattle, pigs and poultry, which are all represented on the tour.

Once the talk is complete, Roy sets the children loose and lets them roam around the barn so they can hold, pet and observe the animals on the tour. At the conclusion of the tour, Roy asks the kids to line up and kneel down low to the ground. Before they know what’s going on, a baby pygmy goat is trotted out from the barn and walked along the backs of the kids as they squeal and laugh in enjoyment.

“I told you this was once in a lifetime stuff,” said Roy. “They learn more about farming in one hour than they have ever known in their life. It is very rewarding and we have such a great time doing it.”