LEESVILLE, La. -- Vernon Parish Cattlemen Association Secretary Rusty Bails addressed the Vernon Parish School Board Dec. 11 during a regular meeting to give a presentation on its Youth Agriculture Day event that took place in October.
The VPCA has been working with VPSB since 2016 to put on its Youth Agriculture Day for juniors and seniors attending Vernon Parish high schools. This year, 120 students participated.
"There are almost 330 million people in this country and of that number, one percent or 3.3 million people are directly involved in the agriculture industry -- ranchers and farmers. Fourteen percent are involved in the production side of it that gets it from the farm to your table," Bails said. "Eighty-five percent or 280 million people have no clue how the food gets to the table. Our purpose and mission is education."
Youth Agriculture Day serves to give Vernon Parish students this knowledge. The event consists of students arriving at Porter & Sons Ranch for a day of instruction. They learn about farm safety from a Farm Bureau Safety Instructor, and animal health from a local veterinarian.
Additionally, the Louisiana Ag Center teaches a class on Beef Quality Assurance, McNeese State University provides information on agriculture careers, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Services Agency gives the students information of farm programs, pasture management and youth loans.
A pasture tour is then provided by Porter & Sons Ranch, and before leaving, students have the opportunity to ask more questions.
"The average rancher right now is about 60 years old and the average farmer is in his or her late 50s," Bails said. "We have to have a bridge that can close the gap and bring youth on in to the industry."
Bails said he hopes the partnership with Vernon Parish continues to grow each year when the event takes place the first Wednesday in October. He said the goal is to have 200 students participate.
"I can't thank you all enough for this partnership. It's been good," Bails said to the VPSB members. "We appreciate your support."
Bails also took the time to notify the board of six $500 scholarship opportunities through VPCA for Vernon Parish students, some specifically for those pursuing careers in agriculture and others for different higher education paths.
"Wherever we can find to use our money to do good, that what we're going to do," Bails said.
VPSB Superintendent James Williams expressed his gratitude to the VPCA.
"At the fair, the kids were talking about what they had seen and learned at Ag Day," Williams said. "We appreciate that. Not everybody does this type of event. We want to work together to keep that going."