Farming is Ag-Citing for adults, too
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – A new addition to this year’s Clay County Fair was an agricultural educational experience geared towards teaching adults some basic facts about farming.
Known as Ag-Citing for Adults, the experience gave the class of a dozen people the chance to walk around the fairgrounds to see and learn about production agriculture.
The sessions, sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, took place on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the fairgrounds.
“I was motivated to acquaint non-farm, or non-ag people, with what happens in farming,” said Paul Kassel, ISU field agronomist, who led the session. “It’s a huge business in Iowa, yet so few people understand it because farmers are such a small percentage of the population.”
Ag-Citing for Adults began with pre-registration and participation in three brief online sessions (written by ISU Extension interns) before coming to the fairgrounds, which gave instructors a gauge on what the attendees knew about agriculture.
One online session was about GMO crops, one included statistics about farming locally, and the other was about extension and outreach.
Once at the fairgrounds, participants were briefly educated on what GMO crops are, then followed that with a machinery tour, learning about some of the machines used for tillage, planting and harvest.
“It’s so important for farmers to tell their story, and the Clay County Fair is great because we have all these resources,” Kassel said. “People, displays, parking and the ag learning center here.”
Kevin Brown, of Spencer, said he attended to learn about agriculture. While his family owned farm land, they rented it out instead of farming themselves.
“I never really got to dig in the dirt, so I wanted to learn more about the process behind that,” he said, adding that as one of the owners of a technology company, he wanted to learn about how the company could better help farmers by learning what farmers need for technology.
He came to learn what a day in the life of a grain producer would be like, and ended up learning more than he expected.
“Someone made the comment that the people here looking at farm equipment are looking at 15 years down the road. They’re not necessarily here to buy it today,” Brown said. “That really blew my mind.”
In particular, he was amazed by the harvesting process – from the time it comes off of the ground the process of how it goes through the combine.
“This was definitely worth my time today,” he said.
Kristine Devereaux, of Spencer, is a certified public accountant who does not have an ag background. She came to better understand what some of her clients do as farm families.
“I wanted to learn about some of the issues and investments they have,” she said. “Learning about equipment was big for me because we (as CPAs and accountants) see those purchases and it’s nice to understand what that equipment does and why they spend so much money on it.”
She came hoping to learn about the costs associated with agriculture and farming, and said the machinery tour was very useful in that way.
“I feel like I can better relate to our client base now because of this,” Devereaux said, adding that she hopes to attend another session that focuses more on GMO crops and the inputs farmers use to grow their crops.
Kassel said this experience could grow, as ag topics cover a broad spectrum. His hope, eventually, is that it can grow into several sessions each day on various ag-related topics.
“We could easily talk about livestock – pork, beef, dairy – and grain storage or grain handling, farm economics, or even conservation or cover crops,” he said. “Our biggest challenge will be in recruiting people to help, because so many Clay County people are busy working out here at the fair when they’re not doing their thing with their families.”
More and more ag and ag commodity groups are beginning to tell the story of agriculture, according to Kassel, and it was only natural to put something like this together to be part of that movement.
“Two people might meet in college and end up living in a farming community in Iowa, where they don’t have any understanding of machinery or crops or land values or even Extension,” he said. “Or maybe they don’t work in agriculture directly, but they’re an accountant and see a value for a combine or disk ripper or cultivator and wonder why (farmers) need them.”
For more information or to become involved in this effort, contact Kassel at (712) 262-2264 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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