By Kim West
BELLE MINA —
Peals of laughter and excited chatter filled the air at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center Wednesday as hundreds of third-graders participated in the annual Limestone County Safety Day.
Approximately 400 students visited the 755-acre farmland to take part in safety and agricultural activities staged by Bunge, a Decatur soybean processing company.
Athens Bible School and Creekside Elementary School visited on Tuesday, while Blue Springs, Johnson and Owens students came on Wednesday.
The children spent about 4 hours rotating among the education stations. They listened to presentations on firearm safety and drug awareness by the Sheriff’s Office and asked questions during a lively chat about the food cycle and animal safety from Odell Farms.
They saw a grain bin, went through Athens Fire and Rescue’s smoke-simulator trailer and picked up safety tips for using chemicals, farm machinery, lawn care equipment and all-terrain vehicles.
An Owens group, which was guided by Bunge technician Keith Cagle, spent several minutes before the lunch break visiting with Odell Farms owner Kenneth Odell and his daughter, Molly.
The Piney Chapel farmer exhibited three farm animals — Madeline, a 2-year-old cow, and two horses, Blackjack and the 25-year-old Doc. He also held up a shiny red, white and blue riding helmet and encouraged the students to be cautious when approaching animals.
Owens third-grader Storm White, 9, said she enjoyed all of the activities, especially the water safety and animal stations.
“We learned about wearing life jackets (when boating) and what to do if someone falls in the water,” said White, who was wearing a white Safety Day T-shirt and a khaki Bunge cap over her long dark hair. “I also really liked the animal station. It was surprising to me how young the cow was and how old and tall the horse was.”