CRAIG COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) – The Craig County Land Lab lets students run an entire farm, right outside their classroom window.

“When I first drove up, it was nothing but grass — and over the past two years, the students have built everything you see here,” said Emily Nolen, agriculture teacher at Craig County High School.

She started the Land Lab, which uses hands-on learning to teach students about agriculture and hard work. Students plotted the layout for the farm, calculated the cost of building it, and even built the fence around the field.

They tend to cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens, and have a greenhouse. Nolen hopes they’ll be adding a barn with a feeding system in the near future.

“You’d be surprised. Craig County is pretty rural, most kids didn’t grow up in a farm background,” she said. “They don’t understand that food production is based around the ag industry, and if you don’t do the hands-on labor, you’re not gonna have something on your plate to eat or the clothes you wear.”

Eliza Muncey is one of Nolen’s students and a member of the Craig County Future Farmers of America. She says more people need to understand the scale of agriculture.

“A lot of us never have worked on a farm before, and this is a great opportunity,” she said.

Students like Muncey and Emmie Radford volunteer at the Land Lab after school.

“I get a sense of responsibility because I know if I don’t help, they don’t eat,” said Radford.

Nolen says they’re looking at the future of agriculture, and that means emphasizing technology in the trade.

“Either learning how to fly a drone or how to calculate costs through automated math systems, so they broaden their horizons on how to use the skills they know to manage a farm,” she said.

It also gets students away from their desks, which Radford says is a lot more fun.

“It gives students something that they’re excited to learn about because I know me, I don’t like to sit in a classroom all day, I like to come out and be with the animals,” she said.