Bandys High School turned into a farm for a day as agriculture came alive for county residents.
More than 2,200 students and residents discovered farm life Friday at the school's annual Ag Day.
After more than 25 years and doubled participation, this event continues to carry one purpose — to raise agricultural awareness among community members who may not have an understanding of where food comes from.
"This is an opportunity for us to help raise agricultural awareness and literature," said Laura Parker, a Bandys agricultural teacher and Future Farmers of America adviser. "We are going into the third generation that does not depend on food from a family farm. (Students) are losing touch of where food comes from and the effort it takes to get food into stores."
Agricultural Awareness Day started at 9 a.m. Friday with elementary-age children filling the grassy area behind Bandys High's gym. Students, teachers and other community residents discovered cows, horses, goats, pigs, flowers and learned what it takes to care for various farm animals.
"We come every year," said Vickie Vaughan, of Claremont, who brought her grandchildren to Ag Day on Friday. "This is a good opportunity for people who don't live on a farm or raise their children on a farm. (The children) learn a lot."
With more than 700 elementary students visiting Ag Day on Friday morning, some animals were not used to active, continuous attention, like Tennessee Walker horse A.J.
A.J., 5, was shying away as children from area elementary schools tried to pet him, but after a few minutes, the horse was sticking his head through the fence to give kisses to his new young friends.
A.J. is owned by Averi Crouch, a senior at Bandys, and is one of many animals brought by students who are in the FFA chapter at the school.
Hunter Whalen, a ninth-grader at Bandys, brought 5-month-old pygmy goat Speckles and 5-month-old miniature horse Tater to participate in Ag Day.
"I love animals and like to help," said Whalen, adding this is her first year participating in the all-day event.
Parker said this year's event had about 80 volunteers, including students and parents from the school's alumni group.
"The event builds leadership for students, and our students love it," Parker said. "Bandys is known for its Ag Day."
Parker hoped that as children left Ag Day and went home to eat, they'll remember where food comes from and the importance of farm life.
"I hope (students) understand the agricultural business and that it's a viable career option for their future," she said. "When they sit down for dinner, I hope they remember how hard someone worked for their
Ag Day, which started as a small petting zoo with about 200 visitors years ago, not only grew in participants this year, but also in sponsors. Some sponsors came from outside of Catawba County and as far as Rutherford County and Shelby.
"It's expanded beyond a local opportunity," Parker said.