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Crenshaw’s Auburn Agriculture Day a hit with students

JOURNAL PHOTO | MONA MOORE From left, Goshen Agriculture Academy students Bailey Singleton and Lexi Ellisor make gummy worms as Austin Missildine and Esther Gilbert observe. The gummy worms were an experiment at Auburn University Ag Exploration Day, held in Crenshaw County’s Tom Harbin Ag Center.

JOURNAL PHOTO | MONA MOORE
From left, Goshen Agriculture Academy students Bailey Singleton and Lexi Ellisor make gummy worms as Austin Missildine and Esther Gilbert observe. The gummy worms were an experiment at Auburn University Ag Exploration Day, held in Crenshaw County’s Tom Harbin Ag Center.

Pictionary, gummy worms, chicken and crickets may not sound like your typical college recruitment strategy, but all played a part in Auburn University Ag Exploration Day.

The annual event was the brainchild of Ray Hilburn, associate director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and alum of the program. The recruiting program was held at the Tom Harbin Ag Center in Luverne.

“It’s a joint venture of the College of Agriculture,” he said. “We started talking about how we could get more students in the ag program and I said, ‘go to them.’”

Nineteen years later, Ag day is still wowing students and attracting interests.

“I learned that agriculture wasn’t just about farming,” said Jon Austin Motes, a student at Luverne High School.

Amanda Martin, student services coordinator with Auburn’s Ag department, started her introduction to food sciences by sharing a protein bar made of cricket flour with a few of the students. They got to taste it before learning what the source of the protein was.

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Lauren Johnson, Brantley High School senior. “When I found out it was a cricket, it kinda tasted worse.”

“It was definitely something new,” added Luverne senior Uriah Brown.

Students got hands-on experience by making gummy worms. They took turns squeezing a solution of sodium alginate, sugar and Kool-Aid into water and a calcium chloride solution to see the science involved in developing food products.

“I loved trying to make the gummy worms,” said Alexus Redmon, a student at Luverne.

Hilburn’s original plan was to introduce students from his alma mater, Luverne High School, to the program. The event was limited to 40 or 50 students.

Today, the event is twice its size and students from Goshen, Mackenzie, Straughn, Brantley, W.S. Neal and Crenshaw Christian Academy joined Luverne students in sessions about setting goals, applying for scholarships and Auburn’s College of Agriculture.

“It started out as a Crenshaw County kind of thing and then people started calling and wanting to come,” Hilburn said. “I tried to include as many schools as I could.”

Thursday’s guest list included Goshen Ag Academy student Lexi Ellisor, who did not want to pass up the opportunity to learn more about Auburn.

“I want to go to Auburn,” she said.

Straughn Ag teacher Rodney Wyrosdick brought 10 of his students to the event.

“I brought my students so that they would be exposed to different types of agriculture and so they would know of the different opportunities at Auburn University,” he said.

Hilburn wanted students to gain insight on college life from students enrolled in the program and meet local alumni who could help pave the way to Auburn.

“The best thing I learned at Auburn was how to take care of myself,” he said. “This is just a good experience for them, a chance to learn what college life is like.”

In addition to learning about the studies, students learned about traditions like weekly biscuit breakfasts at the home of one of the Ag professors and annual contests involving the development of new food products.

McKenzie student Austin Weathers appreciated the extra efforts that went into Ag Day.

“It was definitely more interesting than the other recruiting programs. And the food was definitely better,” he said. “Most sit you at a table, hand you a cookie and say thanks for coming.”

To learn more about the program call 334-844-4768, visit ag.auburn.edu or email agstusv@auburn.edu.