Ag Cab Lab entertains, teaches at CCF
SPENCER – Fair-goers visiting Grandpa’s Barn at the Clay County Fair get an extra surprise this year.
Located just behind the barn is the Ag Cab Lab- a simulator display that gives children and adults the chance to experience what it’s like to drive a tractor or combine in a field.
The experience was brought to the fair initially by the Clay County Farm Bureau, along with the financial help of 24 area and regional sponsors, including the Iowa Farm Bureau office.
The cost of the attraction rang up at $3,700 for one cab, or two cabs for $6,000. The Clay County Fair features two cabs – complete with passenger seats.
“Our group’s vice president saw it at a fair and wondered about bringing it here, but we couldn’t afford it as a county group,” said Leo Stephas, Clay County Farm Bureau voting delegate. “We decided to go ahead and do it if we could get some financial help.”
He said all of the leg work and inquiries to make it happen were worth it.
“You can see the results here,” said Stephas. “We start each day at 9 a.m. and go until 8 or 8:30 at night, and there’s someone in the cab almost the whole time. There’s a line almost constantly.”
Stephas said children are the primary customers of the cabs. When they sit down in the seat of the cab, they see a monitor above the steering wheel and one to the right, just like in a real tractor or combine. The touch-screen monitor on the right lets them choose if they want to drive modern or older machinery, and whether they want to till, plant, harvest or navigate an obstacle course.
There is also a throttle lever to let them control the speed of the tractor via the monitor. They can see what’s ahead of them on the monitor above the steering wheel. On the monitor to the right, they can see their tractor and implement as they progress through the field, just like the real thing.
Stephas said there are different skill levels for all of the options.
The reaction of the youths, Stephas said, speaks volumes about the value of this fair attraction, which is meant to entertain and educate people about American and Iowa agriculture practices.
He said the children appear focused on what they’re doing once the tractor or combine starts moving on the screen.
Kourtney Kogel, 10, of Emmetsburg, lives on a farm and said she learned one important thing as she drove the tractor.
“It’s hard,” she said, with wide eyes. “I didn’t know where the rows were, and it was hard to turn (at the right time). I’m never going to say it’s easy to farm.”
Caden Perdue, 10, Emmetsburg, did the obstacle course and came away from it with a smile.
“I tried to hit the blue cubes instead of the red ones, because they take points off if you hit the red ones,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.
“I learned that it’s fun to drive a tractor.”
Stephas said placing the Ag Cab Lab behind Grandpa’s Barn was a natural fit, since the youths can walk through the barn to learn about farm animals, then proceed directly to the cabs. They then can head outside after that to explore some crop plots, where they can see, feel and learn about real row crops and cover crops, including corn and soybeans, oats, rye and hairy vetch.
The Ag Cab Lab will see roughly 320 children per day throughout the week, as area and regional elementary schools bring their students to experience the “Ag-Citing” program, where they spend a day learning about Iowa agriculture.
Weekend crowds, Stephas thought, would be just as large.
“This has been every bit as successful as we’d hoped,” he said. “We have thank-you boards here so people can write on them about their experiences in the cabs, and say thanks to our sponsors.
“We couldn’t do this without them.”
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