Children learn where their food comes from
Agriculture is not simply farming. It's the supermarket, the equipment factor, the trucking system, overseas shipping industry, the scientist's laboratory, the houses we live in and much more.
Children visiting the Washington County Fair at West Bend learned about where their food comes from, how it makes its way to the store and what products, other than food, begin on the farm.
Washington County is very close to the state's largest urban population in Milwaukee. As a result, their county fair, located right along a major highway, attracts a large urban audience.
The Washington County Ag Venture group sees this as a golden opportunity to tell the story of agriculture.
The Ag Venture area at the fair attracts as many as 1700 children a day. The area is changed each year to make it fresh and exciting to children who attend the fair every year. It is also designed so the parents taking their children through the area will also learn more about Wisconsin's agriculture.
In the area children go through to pick out various agricultural products. At the end they cash them in with a reward of milk.
New this year was an area where children packed a lunch, choosing items that represented the various food groups.
Also added this year were the colorful barn shaped sensory boxes that contained various seeds and products and challenged the children to guess the contents just by their feel. The project was done in coordination with the 4-H woodworking leaders in the county who built the boxes for the Ag in the Classroom project.
Financial support for the project and other activities came from Badgerland Financial, Ag in the Classroom grant money, and the Washington County Dairy Promotion Committee and Farm Bureau.
Coordinators of the fair's Ag Venture area are Judy Kasten, Marilyn Kuhaupt and Ruth Knetzger. This is the 14th year the group has included the AgVenture tent at the fair, beginning when the fair relocated from Slinger to the current location.
When they started the venture they visited other fairs and went to the Wisconsin Association of Fairs convention to glean ideas on ways to tell the ag story. They ended up combining many of the ideas into what has turned out to be a very popular spot at the Washington County Fair.
"Getting volunteers is our biggest challenge," says Kasten. "The dairy committee at the fair includes the kids who show dairy at the fair and they are busy with showing and with all their other 4-H projects, including working in the 4-H food stand. They don't have a lot of time to work in this area."
Over the years they have found volunteers through a variety of organizations.
The goal of the entire AgVenture area is to provide hands-on activities that will leave a lasting impression on both the youngsters and their parents or child-care providers who bring them through.
"We get a lot of day-cares through here during the fair," says Knetzger. "They really enjoy it."
Throughout the area are hand-outs of information, coloring books and work sheets that the children can take home with them for continued learning.
Each year the group reviews the activities and looks at ways to change or improve the area.
Kasten says one of the most popular activities is the pedal tractor area where children can ride through a maze of straw bales. She says children are fascinated with tractors and one of the goals of the group is to raise enough funds so they can bring in a tractor simulator so the children can experience what it's like to be in the cab of a real working tractor.