An “Ag-Tastic” Weekend

My weekends are usually pretty busy. The combination of an active social life, community involvement, a huge family, and about a million different hobbies and interests means that my “free” time is hardly ever actually free. This weekend, it was chock full. In fact, Saturday was devoted almost entirely to advocating agriculture. You know, that wonderful thing we’ve come to call “agvocacy.”
(Fair warning, this post is a long one, but I think it’ll be interesting.)

What did I do? Well, I hit the Kankakee Farmer’s Market wearing a green polo with the words “Illinois 4-H Ambassador” on the front. I spent six hours at the marketplace running a special booth featured because it was Agriculture Appreciation Day there. I represented the local Extension office as a volunteer.
I talked about 4-H, yeah. I talked about nutrition labs and family programs and rural beautification projects. Most of all, I
encouraged dialogue.
At the local foods breakfast (also hosted at the farmer’s market because of the special event), I discussed things like organic vs. natural, the merits of both conventional mass-production methods and a smaller organic model, the local specialty crops, and the idea of industry unity. It was great to sit at a table full of people, only two of which I knew, and discuss things with an open mind and a respectful spirit.
I also got to experience the wonder of friendly llamas (which are rare in my experience) and a spit-roasted pig. If you want good pork, you REALLY need to cook the pig in one piece, because it was to die for. Anyways…

At my booth, I shared the value of Extension programs. Many of these programs find interesting ways to incorporate food raising into food consuming. The nutrition programs through our Extension always seem to run hand-in-hand with agricultural programs. The Extension is a valuable tool to keeping agriculture awareness alive in our area. This is especially important because north-eastern Illinois is always at risk of being swallowed by Chicago and its suburbs. Urban sprawl is dangerous and our area is showing a trend towards it. Keeping the public aware of our county’s most prevalent industry can be considered insurance for the next generation of farmers.
So, six hours in the sun and a couple hundred interested citizens later, I was sporting a classy polo shirt tanline (seen in the most previous picture). By late afternoon, I was in the car on the way downstate to hit the Normal Cornbelters minor league game with Farmboy and his sister.
Now, I love the Illinois countryside. I love driving through the wind farms around Dwight and Towanda. I love that the gentle hills add contour to the land, yet somehow you can still see for miles. Overall, I just love it. It was a nice relaxing trip, during which Farmboy and I casually noted to each other that a certain corn field was tasseling or guessed how soon a wheat field would be harvested.

We’re farm-geeks, I know.
Anyways, after that pleasant ride, Farmboy, his sister and I hit the Cornbelters game.
You want to talk about a fun way to teach people about agriculture? This is probably the best I could think of. The stadium, the sponsor signs, the scoreboard, the jumbotron…they all shared agriculture’s message. Heck, there was corn growing in the lawn past the outfield. In between innings, fun facts were shared via the sound system and scoreboard screen. Looking over the schedule of events, there were a handful of days that I really would love to attend. Costume contest nights, College Student nights, Farm Tribute Night…it was fabulous.
(We were behind this group of leather-clad bikers, who were hysterical. And the publicity people were really engaging! And I caught a t-shirt when they threw them into the crowd. And Farmboy’s sister and I admired the work of art that is the baseball player in uniform…)
I’d been mildly interested in the Cornbelters before. Now, I’m hooked. I bought a shirt and am anxiously awaiting the day they make Corny (the mascot) stuffed animals!
So, long story short, I had a wonderful Saturday full of agricultural outreach. It just goes to show that there are a million different ways to teach the world about where their food, fiber, and fuel come from. Hopefully you all can have as much fun experiencing agvocacy as I did over the weekend.

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