A group of students in Polk County High’s agriculture program recently toured the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Center in Mills River. The 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 vegetable and ornamental programs at the research farm and visit the tissue culture lab where scientists are developing new plants for both the nursery and bio-fuels industries. Tours of both the tomato and ornamental greenhouses gave students an opportunity to see some of the most recent work in the world of plant breeding.

Due to inclement weather, students were unable to observe the research apple orchard. Instead, they observed an 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.”

In addition to Barber, volunteers John Vining, Genesis Roman, Lexi Praytor, Ava East, Daniel Ramirez-Mejia, Hudson Hyde and Noah Champion accompanied the group.

Students on the tour and pictured above include: Front row, from left: Allison Edwards, Benny McCraw, Carolina Castillo-Ibarra, Kendall Hall, Zoe Parsons and Claudia Truesdale; back row, from left: Sydney Waldman, Mariah Overholt, Autumn Owen, Tana Harris, Anna McFadden, Evan Dadson, Chase Jackson, Reagan Waddell, Braden Miller, John Dougherty, James Coffey, Tyler Lawrence and Tristan Raines.