• Murphy Middle School students Saige Keant and Maggie Allison (from left) pull weeds from the Future Farmers of America garden as their advisor, Anne Marie Franklin, and Cherokee County Extension agent Keith Wood supervise.
    Murphy Middle School students Saige Keant and Maggie Allison (from left) pull weeds from the Future Farmers of America garden as their advisor, Anne Marie Franklin, and Cherokee County Extension agent Keith Wood supervise.

SCOUTING AROUND: Middle school students learn through garden

    A group of Murphy Middle School students are spending their summer waking early once a week to work on a big project. They are members of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter, and they are growing a garden full of produce.
    “It’s fun,” said Taylor Conner, a seventh-grade student. “I thought it would be fun, and it is. I’ve learned a lot about plants, and how to plant them and identify them.”
    The students have been involved in all steps of planting and maintaining a garden. Conner, who has learned her favorite thing to do is weeding because she likes getting dirty, said the garden has helped her learn much more about farming and gardening than the classroom.
    “You can see it and touch it,” she said.
    The garden was made possible thanks to a $500 Going Local grant from N.C. Farm Bureau as well as donations from individuals and Cherokee County Farm Bureau. Keith Wood, the county’s agriculture extension agent, helped the school by offering land for the garden at the Sheriff’s Training Center in Marble and arranging to borrow tools from the county’s Master Gardeners.
    “He’s been a big help,” said Anne Marie Franklin, the FFA advisor and agriculture teacher at Murphy Middle.
    Wood said the land, with two high-tunnel greenhouses, originally was part of a Tennessee Valley Authority grant the county received about six years ago for a community garden. It had been unused for about three years.
    “We appreciate the county allowing us to use this property,” he said.
    Wood said he was happy to help the students. He invited them to watch how crops are sprayed with fungicide at his own family farm in Andrews.
    “At this age, it’s a good time to introduce them to agriculture,” Wood said. “That’s something you can do and stay here.”
    Throughout the state, agriculture classes are growing in popularity in middle and high schools, Franklin said. She was hired at the school last year to teach what she calls her passion, and through her efforts on the middle-school level hopes to support the expanding agriculture program in high school.
    She started with just sixth-grade students last year, but will be teaching classes for all grades this school year – including introduction to agriculture for sixth, biotechnology for seventh, and environmental and natural resources for eighth. The school’s FFA has 30-35 members so far.
    The students are growing beets, okra, green beans, pinto beans, radishes, squash and zucchini. They will be preparing the fall and winter garden soon, with broccoli and cauliflower planting scheduled for September.
    “We want to use this as a place for the kids to have hands-on activities,” Franklin said. “Anything I can offer, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
    Students like Eli Decker appreciated the “real life” experience the garden provides.
    “If I grow up to have a garden, I’ll know what to do,” he said, adding he has a better idea of where his food comes from.
    Radishes are sprouting and should be ready in about a week. Once the produce is ready, the FFA plans to sell it at the school and training center. They also have been invited to sell at the Murphy Farmers Market.
    “I hope we can utilize all of these options,” Franklin said.
    Updates on the garden and when produce will be available to purchase will be posted on the school’s Facebook page as well as the N.C. Cooperative Extension Cherokee County Center’s Facebook page.

Andrews chief in lip sync battle
    When “I Want It That Way,” by the Backstreet Boys usually plays on the radio, Andrews Police Chief Josh Wooten turns up the volume. Last week, he lip synced along as he filmed himself in his patrol car for the lip sync battle challenges law enforcement officers across the country are posting online.

    “I thought it would be good public relations,” Wooten said, adding that the challenge shows cops have fun, too.
    The fun started in Bexar County, Texas, according to ABC News. Deputy Alexander Mena filmed himself lip-syncing to “Fuiste Mala” by the Kumbia Kings. The sheriff’s office posted the video on social media on June 19, commenting “he’s got a mean lip sync that not many can beat.”
    Wooten participated at the urging of friends and family, the first from Cherokee County to join the challenge. He chose “I Want It That Way” because he likes the song and is a fan of the band’s music.
    “My taste in music is anything with a good beat,” Wooten said, explaining his range is from Miley Cyrus to bluegrass.
    He said it took a few takes to get the video just right, as he would have to stop for calls he was receiving.
    After posting his video on the afternoon of July 11, he challenged the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, where he used to work, and Macon County Sheriff’s Office, where he has some friends, to participate. Wooten was surprised to see that by the next morning, his video already had 12,000 views.
    “There are a lot of people enjoying it,” he said.
    Macon County shared a video Monday of their officers lip syncing and playing instruments along to Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Among other area law enforcement offices, Sheriff Derrick Palmer and his staff were challenged again.
    By press time Tuesday, neither the sheriff’s office nor the Murphy Police Department had uploaded videos. Wooten advised them to “just have fun with it.”
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.