For more than 2,000 first-and fourth-graders from northeast Louisiana, the LSU AgCenter’s Ag Alley at the thirtieth annual Ag Expo on Jan. 18 and 19 offered a chance to get up close and personal with plants and animals.

Ag Alley is a series of four exhibits with information to help children learn where their food comes from, according to Richard Letlow, LSU AgCenter agent and exhibit coordinator. “When groups come in, we try to focus on what they are learning for LEAP.”

The four exhibits featured information about rice, soybeans, school gardens and a mini-farm.

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Rafash Brew said there was high demand for school gardens to be represented, and the area Master Gardeners provided information to show how easy it is to put in a school garden.“We wanted to show that you don’t have to have a ‘back 40’ or a garden tiller to put in a garden. You can use wood and build raised beds, or you can go a little more elaborate with decorative rocks. Even if you live in an apartment there is still room to plant a container garden big enough to make a garden salad and get the kids to eat more nutritiously.”

Donice Slaton, a fourth-grade teacher at Lakeshore Elementary School in Monroe, has been bringing her students every year and says it is a worthwhile trip.“This is an excellent hands-on opportunity for these guys because some of these students have never seen the animals or the plants that are here.”

The stops the children visit show products that are grown in Louisiana from the seed to the finished product, she said. “It ties in with the science and social studies that we are teaching, and it just gives them a great opportunity to see the agriculture that’s being showcased here at Ag Expo.”

Slaton said everything done at Ag Alley is correlated with the grade level expectations in the classroom, and it helps the students with the LEAP test. Students said they learned a lot about agriculture, but some say they learned about even more than just “cows and plows.”

“We learned about growing gardens, and we learned not to smoke,” said Luke Middleton, a fourth-grade student at Northeast Baptist School in West Monroe.

Ag Alley has been conducted by the LSU AgCenter for more than 20 years, according to Markaye Russell, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Ouachita Parish.

Ag Expo is sponsored by the North Louisiana Agri-Business Council in cooperation with the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Tech University, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and Goldman Equipment.