One Awesome Ag Show
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – Hundreds of elementary school children from around Northwest Iowa will know a little bit more about agriculture after they’ve attended the Clay County Fair’s Awesome Ag Show. The fair continues through Sunday.
“They’re being educated, and they don’t even know it-that’s the best part,” said Mike Klee, who travels the nation bringing his ag education program to young children in the form of humor and magic.
Klee said he begins writing his programs by researching each state and finding out what products that state is known for exporting or producing.
For his Clay County Fair appearance, he made it known to children that Iowa is rated No. 1 in wind-related jobs, as well as in the production of soybeans.
“What kid doesn’t want to hear that his/her state is No. 1 at something?” he asked.
His work began with doing a few programs here and there for libraries, and has grown into a full-time occupation. Klee said it educates him as much as the children, since he goes online to research facts about each state and about agricultural products in general.
This is Klee’s third year of performing and teaching at the Clay County Fair.
“It’s really unusual for a show like this to be at a fair more than two years, so I hope I’m doing something right,” he said. “The kids seem to love it, and I really enjoy working with the kids and teaching them a little bit about agriculture.”
Klee said he’s a “ham,” and works his crowd by teasing them as a group before the show begins, seeing who he thinks would make good volunteers to come up on stage to help him with his educational magic tricks. He always had more potential volunteers than he could use, and he said it’s a good way to capture their attention before he begins to teach them.
“Kids will retain information if it’s presented to them in a fun and entertaining way-the humor and magic does the trick,” said Klee.
Klee had the children in the palm of his hand throughout his show. They were listening to what he had to say about agriculture. His magic word of the day was “agri-cadabra.”
He told the groups – as he held up a Bantam chicken – that chickens don’t sweat like people do, that they cool their bodies through their combs, that chickens lay an average of 265 eggs per year, and that the most yolks ever found in one egg is nine.
He also said that the farthest distance a chicken has “flown” is 300 feet. He ended his education on chickens by doing a trick of turning a yellow handkerchief into an egg.
Through his tricks and humor, he told children that ducks are grown in Iowa for meat and down feathers, and that the pig was the first animal ever domesticated.
“Do you know anyone with diabetes?” he asked the group. “Insulin comes from pigs.”
Klee told children lambs are grown in Iowa for meat and wool, and said a common baseball has 150 yards of lamb’s wool at its core. Another product that come from lambs, he said, is lanolin for lotions, soaps and make-up.
He explained that a dairy cow produces 25 gallons of milk per day and drinks about a bathtub full of water each day in order to help produce that milk.
Klee said in his travels he sees the vast amount of farmland that exists all over the nation, and because of his research, now understands the important role that farmers play.
“I want to get the message across to kids that we need our farmers and our farms,” he said, adding that 91 percent of Iowa farms are family-owned.
Klee, a Richmond, Va. resident, who didn’t grow up on a farm, said he’s a farm boy at heart. He’s been doing shows like this for the past 11 years.
“I grew up in a rural community, and I appreciate what farmers do for us-that’s what I want to teach the kids,” he said. “and with the Ag-Citing Program and Grandpa’s Barn both right next to me, kids are able to learn a lot about agriculture and how it impacts their lives.”
Klee said children love bragging about their states, and he tries to give them an agricultural reason to brag. He told excited group after excited group that farmers make America No. 1.
“Kids like to be educated. They act like they don’t, but they do like disciplined education, especially if they can be involved in it,” he said.
Klee has written other shows for children, including educational shows about “going green,” along with bullying prevention. He works primarily at fairs, and said the Clay County Fair is his favorite place to teach and entertain.
“The people here are so nice, and it’s a nice, pleasant atmosphere,” he said.
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