Teaching Kids About Agriculture

In my last post I mentioned that I had done some “agvocacy” work.  I mentioned briefly that I helped teach local 4th graders about agriculture.  Well, as always the event, known as “Kids Day on the Farm” was a HUGE success.  I remember attending when I was in 4th grade, and the tradition has held strong.  This year, roughly 1,200 area 4th graders streamed through the Ag Expo building of our county fairgrounds, learning about all sorts of different facts about agriculture.

The thing I find most amazing about this event is the diversity of educators that make an appearance.  The local agriculture is incredibly diverse; we have everything from specialty herb production to corn to egg production to beef and a lot of stuff in between.  Organic, non-organic, niche or mass-marketed or otherwise…all of it was represented.  If the kids took anything away from Kids Day, it was the fact that agriculture goes beyond Old McDonald’s farm nowadays.

The event was set up like this:

  • Inside, in the expo building, each presenter (about 22 in all) had a table with a display.  The display could be a slideshow, or posters, or examples of things.
  • Each presenter had approximately ten minutes to give their speech.
  • Each 4th grade class was led from table-to-table by a local FFA member.
  • Outside, in a nearby building, livestock  were penned with their owners giving presentations on their animals.  (This year we had a herd of Boer goats, a Poland-China piglet, two Texas Dall sheep, a shorthorn steer, and a pony.)
  • The class was “done” once all the booths were visited.
  • The event lasted two days, from 10-2 each day.

This year, I participated in a different way than in years past.  Previously, I had run the Rabbit table.  Because of my allergy to rabbits developing, however, I had to concede that task to the guy-formerly-known-as-Farmboy.  Tim took over my presentation with ease, and was able to wow the kids with his “huge” rabbits and talk of things like dewlaps and “bunny air conditioners” and other rabbit-specific terms.

How did I participate this year?  Well, I was a “floater.”  I stepped in where I was needed.  On the first day, I gave a talk about ethanol.  I also sat in and “helped” on the pig presentation, and became good friends with a little black and white piglet named Fred.  On the second day, I spent the majority of my time helping at the Soil Conservation table.  We cut up apples to show the kids how small of a percentage of ground is actually usable for food production.  They trusted me with sharp objects, and I managed to avoid cutting myself the entire time.  For that reason by itself I count Kids Day 2011 a success.

In all seriousness, Kids Day on the Farm ’11 was successful.  Twelve hundred local 4th graders left with a greater knowledge base of the complicated issues in the world around them.  At the start, to them it probably seemed like a good excuse to get out of school for a day and go see farm animals.  We like to hope that they eventually came to understand how complex and demanding raw good production actually is.  Myself and the other volunteers, as well as the dedicated organizers of the event, hope that in the long run, we made a difference.


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