Students take trip to area strawberry farm

OAK GROVE – For 15 years students from Harmar Elementary School have taken annual field trips to the Stacy Family Farm in Oak Grove where they’re not only taught about the farm’s main crop – strawberries – but also learn a thing or two about other farm-related subjects like beekeeping and meteorology.

Today the farm plays host to students from several schools in Ohio and West Virginia.

“About 2,000 kids come through here every year now, and we try to slip in a little education with the fun,” said farm owner Bill Stacy.

On Monday two bus loads of youngsters from Doddridge County were visiting the facilities, along with another from Harmar Elementary.

“We also have kids every year from schools like Caldwell, Athens, Coolville and Shenandoah,” Bill Stacy said.

The annual field trips began more than 15 years ago when Bill’s son, Todd Stacy, was a first-grader in Teresa Close’s class at Harmar Elementary.

“We had a ‘dress cool day’ at school. You were supposed to wear clothes you thought were cool,” Todd explained. “So I wore my coveralls, boots and hat that I wore every day on the farm. I guess the other kids thought that was cool because I won a prize for being the ‘coolest.'”

Close, now living in Columbus and retired after 28 years of teaching in both Marietta and Houston, Texas, was visiting the farm Monday afternoon.

“It was 1998, and I’d had Todd in both my first- and second-grade classes,” she recalled. “Our class started talking about what students do when they get home, and Todd worked on his family’s farm. Some of the other kids had no clue about life on a farm, so I thought this would be a perfect way to teach them.”

Close wrote up a lesson plan and arranged for the school’s first field trip to the Stacy Family Farm.

“I had to find a way to make the trip educational, but also fun so they didn’t even realize they were learning,” she said.

Todd, now 21 and a graduate of The Ohio State University, remembered the first field trip basically turned out to be a hay ride around the farm, but everyone loved it.

“To me it was just another day at home on our farm,” he said.

Janet Stacy, Todd’s mother, said the annual field trips are now much more education-oriented. On Monday she taught Harmar second-graders about strawberry farming, while local beekeeper and expert Kenny Bach provided a lesson on bees and beekeeping.

Later Marietta College senior Katie Parks held a class on weather and how it impacts farming before fellow MC senior Zach Husk hitched up the tractor and hay wagon to take the children on a tour of the grounds.

Parks has worked at the farm during the May strawberry season for two years now, and Husk for three years. Both are education majors at the college, and get the chance to teach kids in a more non-traditional setting.

Janet Stacy said schools from all over the region schedule field trips to the farm through May, and possibly into the first week of June if the strawberry crop holds up.

“In 15 years we’ve had only one school that had to miss the trip due to weather,” she said. “So we took it to them. We made strawberry shortcakes, and took some displays to show them about soil conditions and weather.”

But the highlight of Monday’s field trip for the Harmar students was picking their own strawberries from a large patch near the Stacy’s farmhouse.

“It’s just fun,” said Abby Miller, 7, who added that she enjoys strawberries plain, with a little sugar.

Fellow student Maggie Siley, also 7, agreed.

“It’s fun because I really like strawberries,” she said.

Cumika Lacey, 8, was going to have some strawberry pancakes.

“I’ve never tried them that way,” she said. “I usually just like them plain – but dipped in whipped cream.”

Hours for picking at the farm are generally 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.