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A large group attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a unique project at the Cherokee County Career and Tech Center (Tech Center)—the unveiling of the "Ag in Action" trailer. This 26-foot learning lab on wheels is the first in Alabama and only the fourth in the nation. It is designed to be setup at local K-middle schools to allow students to experience farming hands-on.

The Ag in Action lab is impressive and catches the eye. It is covered inside and out with almost life-like photos of cattle, poultry, crops, trees and other scenes of agriculture taken at local farms and lands. Inside is an ag simulator, a converted cotton picker cab donated by Donald Sewell, a local farmer from Etowah County. While sitting in the vibrating seat, students can imagine being a farmer and harvesting cotton, corn and soybean crops through audio visuals. Videos of a cattle farm, a poultry house and timber harvest are also available.

Four computer learning stations inside give students the opportunity to learn the importance of farming using touch screen technology. Outside, mounted on the back of the trailer, is a large screen TV that creates another learning station giving students virtual visits to local farms and agricultural related venues. Additional learning stations such as the Eviroscape, a miniature cotton gin, and a milking cow can be added outside the lab to keep multiple groups of students involved at one time.

Everyone agrees that the project would not have been a reality had it not been for the agency partnerships, in-kind hours, grants, donations, and sponsors. The planning committee thanks the many people who supported the project. The participants from seven counties--Etowah, Cherokee, St. Clair, Blount, DeKalb, Marshall, and Calhoun—include Soil and Water Conservation Districts; the Alabama Farmers Federation; Coosa Valley and Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&Ds; USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and FSA; and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Other sponsors include Snead Ag; First South Farm Credit; Gilreath Printing and Signs; Alabama Farm Credit; Cherokee Cotton and Gin; Tile Liquidators; and Cherokee County Career and Technology Center.

The participation of the Tech Center staff and students is especially noted. Instructor Keith Tolbert took ideas that were presented to him, encouraged participation from his students, and sometimes, worked seven days a week to build the project. Tolbert is passionate about his students and this learning experience.

He said, "The project took them full-circle. It gave them a great opportunity to ply their trade while creating a learning device for other students." Sarah Butterworth is the coordinator for the learning lab. She will be traveling around the seven counties and setting it up for educational events.

"Ag in Action is an amazing way to bring agriculture to life and teach students about agriculture," she said. "It allows them to make the connection between the farm and their everyday lives. Using the lab, students will learn where their food and fiber grows and how it is produced.

"We're extremely grateful for the Tech Center students and facility for their vision and work, especially in transforming the cotton picker cab into an ag simulator. They brought it to life," she said.

The Ag in Action trailer is already being scheduled for schools, county fairs, and agricultural events within the seven county area.