Eighteen students from the Polk County High Agriculture Program recently toured the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Center in Mills River.

These same students are currently enrolled in the horticulture classes taught by Chauncey Barber. As part of the tour, students were able to observe the work being done in the tomato and ornamental programs at the research farm.

First, the Polk students visited the tissue culture lab where scientists are propagating new plants for both the nursery and biofuels industries. Later stops were made at the ornamental and tomato greenhouses where the plant breeding is performed each year.

Due to the inclement weather, the students were unable to observe the research apple orchard. Therefore they observed an advanced apple sorter, a specialized machine that identifies any blemishes or defects on fruit quickly and accurately. It can process up to 600 apples in a minute.

“One of the goals of our Ag program at Polk County High School is to show students the current methods of farming as well as those new crops and methods to be used in the future,” Barber said. “Our students always come away from this trip learning something that we could not gain from the classroom.”

Students who participated and are pictured above include: Front row, from left, Maggie Holland, Maggie Johnson, Carly Holland, McKenna Hill, Katie Capuzano-Gomez and Jeffrey Gray; Second row, from left, Katie Mullet, Brianna Gray, Maggie McCammon, Grace Hagan, Tori Thompson, Olivia Overholt, David Ramirez, Braxton Edwards, Evan Jones, Chandler Burnett, Cohen Edwards and North Carolina Apple Specialist Dr Tom Kon.