LUMBERTON — A group of Lumberton High School agricultural students carefully planted tomato plants under an overcast sky on Wednesday in a field used as a farming laboratory.
Some planted, one student plowed the ground with a tractor, and others finished tearing down a barn damaged by Hurricane Matthew six months ago. The Hubert Kinlaw Research Farm is located on Howell Road about 12 miles from the school.
Owner Phyllis Pait has allowed FFA students on the farm since 2000, said Lee Pittman, agriculture teacher and Lumberton FFA advisor. The farm is devoted to demonstration, research and education related to crops and forest products. After Matthew brought down trees and damaged two barns — one beyond repair — the FFA decided to do what it could to help repair one barn, pull down the other and clear trees that fell.
A grant from Bayer Crop Science will make it possible for FFA to hire people to do some of the work, said Pittman, who operated a chainsaw to remove fallen trees.
“We do activities on the farm to give the kids a chance to apply what they learn in class. Today our main goal is to do some repairs from the damage from Hurricane Matthew,” Pittman said. “Because of the grant from Bayer Crop Science we are able to use that money to hire someone. There’s just so much we can do. We can hire a company that can get that out of the way.”
Bayer Crop Science donated $10,000 to the North Carolina FFA Association earlier this year as part of its Respond and Rebuild program, an effort to fund up to 20 community enhancement projects led by FFA chapters throughout the state. Lumberton FFA received $500.
Agriculture classes attract students for different reasons, Pittman said.
“A lot of them are testing the waters a little bit, trying to see what they may be interested in,” he said. “I think we do a good job as an ag program at Lumberton High School to get kids interested in agriculture as a career option.”
Alana Davis is a senior who has been in FFA since her freshman year. She said she didn’t know much about agriculture when she started.
“When I started taking agriculture I was just kind of like trying to figure out what I wanted to do and ag was the most interesting thing,” Davis said. “I took it to see what it was about and I liked it. So I stuck with it.”
Autumn Pittman said she took the beginning course in agriculture and her interest grew from there.
“I was interested in greenhouses so I took ag production because I knew we’d be coming to the farm and we’d be learning about crops and what I would do on a farm,” she said. “One thing I learned is how important farmers are to us, like without them, we wouldn’t be anything.”
Without farmers, nobody eats, she said.
Pittman hasn’t decided which career path she will take, saying she will decide between agriculture and health care.
Kelli Roberts has a closer connection to agriculture. Her father and her uncle are farmers.
“I’d like to pursue a job in agriculture dealing with soils, like an agronomist … Dealing with different diseases that affect the crops,” Roberts said.
The Lumberton High School greenhouse plant sale starts Monday and runs until Mother’s Day or while supplies last. It is held in the greenhouse behind the high school. Plants for sale include tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers, thyme, basil, squash, and flowers, including celosia, coleus, coneflower, dahlia, daisy, hibiscus, lobelia, marigolds, petunias and zinias. Flats are $12 or $2 per four-pack; plants in pots range from $3 to $14. The greenhouse is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.