Spencer hosts Ag Experience 2013
SPENCER – It was a day of fun and learning for kids and adults on July 18 at the third annual Ag Experience, hosted by the ag committee of the Spencer Area Chamber of Commerce. The event took place in the livestock pavilion at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
The day consisted of hands-on learning about food production, including farm animals – a cow/calf pair, mother and baby pig, a sheep, goat and a couple of chickens – along with a Spencer area veterinarian who spoke to attendees about animal health care.
The national Drive to Feed the World tour was present, teaching attendees about the problem of world hunger and the need for continued technology and efficiency in agriculture to meet the needs of a growing world.
Local 4-H and FFA youths were on hand to help teach children about various kinds of livestock, as well as farm and chemical safety, and the Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative display taught children about electrical safety around the farm.
A lot of kids don’t ever get to have a hands-on experience with farm animals,” said Joel Stave, event coordinator, “or ever get to be on the farm.
“This event is meant to put faces to names, to show (people) that farmers take good care of their animals, give them a chance to talk to farmers and see that farmers know what’s best for their animals.
It’s a good introduction to agriculture for the kids.”
The national DFW tour bus invited attendees inside to view a short video that claimed by 2050, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food than they’re producing today to feed the world’s growing population.
They explained that two percent of our nation’s people are farmers, and that they will need to continue seeking out new technologies and efficient techniques to accomplish this task.
Their other mission on the tour, which goes from the west coast to the east coast is to educate people about U.S. hunger issues.
A lot of people don’t know that problem is right in our own backyards,” said Niesha Muller, representing the Elanco Co., co-sponsor of the DFW tour. not just in Third World countries.”
She said 870 million people in the U.S. don’t get enough food, including one in four, and one in five children in the nation’s largest cities.
Matt Harper, a representative of Nutri-Blend, co-sponsor of the DFW tour, said his tour time taught him something important.
“I’ m amazed that the lack of knowledge out there is greater than I thought it was” he said. “It’s as much here in the Midwest as it is anywhere else.”
Spencer High School FFA student Morgan Riessen taught children and adults about chemical safety. She had containers inedible substances – household and garage chemicals – that looked similar to edible items.
She paired water with bleach, window cleaner with blue Kool-Aid, maple syrup with motor oil. Her message was for people to know exactly what they’re eating and drinking.
Livon Toft, 8, from Panama City Beach, Fla., was visiting family in Royal, said she learned a long list of things.
“I haven’t seen (farm) animals in a long time,” she said. “I got to milk a cow for the first time, and I liked it.
“I’ve always wanted to do that. I learned what animals eat, and that if I fly a kite, it can get caught on a power line, so I have to be careful when I do that.”
Her friend, Lauren Berberich, 10, also from Florida, said she enjoyed seeing all of the animals and learned that chickens lay about 300 eggs per year.
Kenny Noll, of Royal, said he was amazed at the fact that farmers have a big responsibility ahead of them, with the need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050.
“I was also amazed to know that a pig is ready to be butchered at six months of age, and knowing that there are fewer people producing our food today, and that one cow today produces as much as five cows did in 1944.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey toured the event and said ag education is something that needs to be done more often – even in Iowa.
“I’m sure there will be conversation around the dinner table tonight when the kids get home,” he said. “Mom and dad might ask the kids what they did today or what they saw here, and they may not be able to articulate exactly what they heard about how the animals are taken care of, but at the end of the day, certainly they will remembe these farmers love their animals and take good care of them.”
Northey said events like this are rare opportunities for children and adults.
“A lot of people aren’t connected with agriculture, and even if they are, so many of them are not connected to livestock agriculture,” he said. “This is a neat, neat event.”
Greg Lear, of Spencer, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, broght a sow and piglet. He was on his knees visiting across the pig pen fence with children, as he rubbed the back of the pig that was next to him. He taught and asked them questions about pigs, and encouraged them to ask questions.
An opportunity to teach about agriculture, he said, is an opportunity not to be missed.
“It’s not only our job as individual producers, but it’s everybody’s job to promote our (ag) industry,” he said. “We need to tell people – show them how we care for our livestock, the facilities we use to raise them, what we feed them, and things they should know about animal health care.”
He said children need to learn about agriculture as they are growing up, because they will be tomorrow’s consumer, purchasing food products for their families.
He said the more they know, the better they will feel about available food.
“We may not be able to make the next hog producer here, but we’re definitely influencing future consumers,” Lear said, “and God knows, the future could use them both.”
He closed by adding, “We’ve got to teach these kids before somebody else teaches them what they believe, instead of what we know to be true as livestock producers.”
By the numbers
+ The world population will be 9 billion in less than 40 years; farmers will need to continue to try to raise more food using less resources and higher efficiency.
+ The average dairy cow produces nine gallons of milk per day.
+ The average laying hen produces 29 eggs per month.
+ One percent of the world’s population heavily influences the way food is produced for everyone.
+ The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world.
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