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FFA Sentinel

Brookwood Highschool Spreads the Message about Alabama Agriculture

Over 6,000 students from across West Alabama Region Three Workforce Development had an opportunity to visit Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa County. West Alabama Works and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama organize the annual event. During World of Work, eighth-grade students from several West Alabama counties visited different career cluster areas to determine interests in various future career opportunities. Students visited career fields in over 150 areas, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, public safety, medical services, hospitality and much more.

In the world of agriculture, students from Brookwood High School collaborated with ALFA Farmers Federation and Young Farmers Federation to promote taking an agriculture class, joining the FFA and ALFA Farmers Federation along with eighth-grade students at the event. In addition, students at WOW were encouraged to consider potential future careers in agriculture.

Briar Bates, a Brookwood FFA member, said, “Being at World of Work as a volunteer has helped me improve as a leader and communicator as I have worked over the last two days to encourage eighth-graders to become involved in FFA and agriculture education.”

The goal of WOW is to connect eighth-graders from across the region with industry leaders and educational programs that will help students develop their potential for career readiness.

Kenna McDaniel, a Brookwood FFA leader, said, “Trying to get eighth-grade students interested in agriculture was difficult at first, but once I was able to tell the students the benefits of being in FFA and becoming part of the agriculture industry, I was able to make meaningful connections with eighth-graders. I was able to show them the importance of FFA, ALFA and agriculture industry, and most of the students were very interested and wanted to be part of our industry.”

At the World of Agriculture, students engaged with various industry leaders from the region, including Harvest Select, USDA, Peco, Forestry Works, First South Farm Credit, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Game and Fish, Alabama Green Industries, Northport Power Equipment and many more. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Tuscaloosa County ALFA Farmers Federation and President Mr. Jim Lavender, the WOW booth was a hit. He worked to gather materials and equipment, as well as served during the event to engage all students who visited the booth.

Riley Webster, a Brookwood FFA member, said, “World of Work has helped me to be able to share the exciting opportunities of agriculture education with my community and allowed me to build skills I will use for a lifetime.”

Getting involved in your county’s workforce region is a vital part of ensuring the agriculture industry has a voice as we grow the next workforce for Alabama in the agriculture industries.

There are seven workforce regions across Alabama. Workforce quarterly meetings as well as various events are hosted to encourage and grow the workforce in each region of the state. More information can be found at to engage and represent your agribusiness in the future at World of Work events or Workforce Development Council meetings held in your region.

4-H Extension Corner

Calhoun County Sweet Potato Challenge: How sweet it is...

Gardeners love the versatility of the sweet potato plant. High in beta carotene, vitamins E and C, iron and potassium, the entire sweet potato plant is edible; however, most people prefer only the tuber. Sweet potatoes grow well in Alabama, and they can be planted in a garden, in a raised bed or in a large container. Homeowners often plant the vine to add color and texture to a landscape.

This year, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, working with Bonnie Plants, offered the Sweet Potato Challenge for 4-H’ers, ages 9-16. The project is part of the Alabama 4-H Grows Garden Project that gives youngsters a variety of summer and fall gardening experiences.

For this first Sweet Potato Challenge, Calhoun County had 72 students excited about participating. These 4-H’ers ranged in ages from 9-18 and came from both rural and urban settings. Sweet potato plants were distributed May 13-15. Students planted and observed their potatoes for 18 weeks, keeping journals and photographs of their progress. On Sept. 21, they brought their harvests to Cane Creek Community Garden to be judged at the annual Calhoun County Fall Fest.

To make sure Calhoun County children had the opportunity to be a part of the Sweet Potato Challenge, the Coosa Valley RC&D Council sponsored the program. This allowed the Calhoun County Extension Office to provide four Bonnie sweet potato plants and a T-shirt for each participant, as well as prize money for winners.

At home, students selected a gardening site that received adequate sunlight. They could choose to plant in a traditional garden, in a raised bed or in a container, but their space had to be large enough for the plants to grow properly. Students were encouraged to get a soil sample, to make sure their growing environment was the best it could be.

After planting, students recorded the date and time of planting, as well as the air and soil temperatures and moisture levels. They were also encouraged to take pictures of their plants. For 18 weeks, they checked on their potatoes, recording weather conditions and precipitation, and then attaching photos to their journals.

Jayden Luhn, a fifth-grader at Alexandria Middle School, said he enjoyed working with his potatoes and found them easier to grow than cabbage. “The hardest part was remembering to water them every morning and making sure no bugs were eating on the leaves.”

Simon Hines, a seventh-grader from White Plains Middle School, expressed amazement.

“The hardest part for me was keeping the vine from spreading over the yard,” he stated. “Being able to take a small plant in your hand and watch it cover a giant area was awesome. I kept wondering how many potatoes were in the dirt!”

ACES supplied information on how these young growers should harvest their potatoes. For example, the materials gave procedures for digging potatoes carefully to protect the skins from injuries, and handling and storing procedures to ensure better flavors.

Once the students had harvested their potatoes, they carefully brushed them off and moved them to a warm, dry, well-ventilated place for two weeks, so the potatoes could cure and the skins would harden.

This Sweet Potato Challenge was a program put on by the Calhoun County 4-H Centennial Youth Initiative Team; therefore, all 4-H staff members were involved: Carmelita Davis, Administrative Secretary/4-H Secretary; Stephen Faughn and Crystal McPherson, County Extension Agents; Jennifer Gann, 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent; and David West, County Extension Coordinator.

“We work as a team to deliver 4-H programs in Calhoun County,” said West. “We want to promote agriculture and make sure our children experience growing something. Kids need to have the wonder and amazement of watching a plant or an animal in our food system thrive and grow.”

At the end of the project, the official weigh-in was held at the Fall Festival. The RC&D Council provided prizes for all winners. Children received cash awards for the largest by weight, prettiest and ugliest potatoes. The most attractive basket of sweet potatoes was also recognized.

This first Sweet Potato Challenge offered hands-on experiences and engaged Calhoun County 4-H’ers in understanding what farmers and gardeners must do to grow safe, healthy food. It also provided an exciting “getting-their-hands-dirty” gardening experience they will never forget.


Cherokee County Career and Technology CenterL Preparing for Recycling's Future

By Jamie Mitchell

Cherokee County Career and Technology Center is producing future anti-litter leaders! I have gone to speak to their Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates group for the past three years, and these students are not only preparing themselves for the workforce but to be exemplary citizens, as well. The students of Cherokee County Career and Tech Center are always attentive and inquisitive, often bringing fresh and innovative ideas to the conversation.

This year, I challenged the students to really consider plastic consumption and waste. Since there is not a convenient recycling center near the school, we discussed in depth what they could do to forgo plastics as well as formulate new ways to reuse it. The students were also asked to consider future packaging and alternative materials besides plastics. As I was leaving, I heard some interesting ideas I hope they will continue to explore!

The students from Cherokee County Career and Tech School truly are the future of Alabama and our nation. Sometimes it just takes starting a conversation to spark innovation and creativity that may change the world one day!

If you would like to schedule a Clean Campus visit to your local school, please contact Jamie Mitchell at 334-263-7737 for more information. You may also learn more about PALS and how to become an individual member at We are here to help as you journey toward a litter-free community!

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