By SGT. 1ST CLASS PHILLIP EUGENE
80th Training Command Public Affairs
Seventeen-year-old Cantrell Curry, son of Sgt. 1st Class Judith Curry, a human resources noncommissioned officer at the 80th Training Command headquarters, Richmond, Va., is uncertain of a career path, but as he prepares for the 12th grade, the high school basketball and track athlete said he has always wondered about the inner workings of greenhouses.
Cantrell satisfied his curiosity when he toured Randolph Farm at the Virginia State University College of Agriculture, Petersburg, Va., Aug. 8. The Army Reserve Child, Youth and School Services sponsored the tour, which provided a behind-the-scenes look of the farm’s daily operations to seven students ages 13-17 from central and northern Virginia.
“The intent was to help the students see the benefits of agricultural careers,” said Dorothy Winston, a CYSS specialist and tour coordinator. “They could be research and food scientists, they could major in business agriculture, or become agricultural inspectors.”
The group, which included Cantrell’s twin brother, Charles, younger brother, Jeremiah, and cousin, Asia Giles, saw farm workers cultivating fruits and vegetables through a process called hydroponics, during which the workers place plant roots in liquid nutrient solutions instead of soil.
Charles observed in one of the greenhouses that the workers use mulch around their sprite melon plants the same way his mom does in her flower garden.
“She uses the red bark instead of the dark ones and she puts a garbage bag on top then she waters it and lets it soak into the soil,” he said.
The students sampled raspberries and blueberries from trees grown in some of the greenhouses. They also saw farm animals, including goats that the workers raise for meat as well as alpaca whose fleece farmers shear and sell to make sweaters and other types of clothing.
The boys and girls competed for bragging rights when the group got an opportunity to fish in one of the farm’s 57 fish ponds. Three out of four girls each caught one catfish, which the farm workers released back into the pond, but none of the boys were as fortunate.
“Girls usually come out on top,” said 13-year-old Kaneasha Johnson, whose guardian is Warrant Officer Angela Burrell, a human resource officer at the 80th Training Command headquarters. “I was scared that the fish was going to eat me because it made all these noises, but once I caught it I felt like I accomplished something.”
The students ended the tour with a career interest survey based on activities they like, their personal qualities and their favorite school subjects. The results helped them identify careers in which they could potentially excel. The survey helped Cantrell recognize that he has potential to be a trainer or an educator.
“This was a lovely group today,” said Jimmy Mullins, the tour guide. “They were receptive to what we talked about and I’m hoping that they go home with some knowledge about food and fiber.”