Ag Discovery Days brings the farm to urban students

Gloria Hafemeister
Over 700 Milwaukee students had a chance to milk a cow and more at the first ever Ag Discovery Day at Wisconsin State Fair park last week. The cow milking station was among 22 stations located throughout the livestock buildings at the fairgrounds.

WEST ALLIS – More than 700 students descended on the Wisconsin State Fair Park for the first ever Ag Discovery Days on May 2, 2023. Under the guidance of 90 passionate volunteers, students had an opportunity to learn about one of the state’s most important industries ‒ agriculture.

Organized by Kari Schoenike and other State Fair Park staff, the goal of the event was to make agriculture fun, accessible and educational for kids. The topics covered everything from sustainability to animal care, Wisconsin commodities like maple syrup along with a host of hands-on opportunities.

By the end of the day, after having the opportunity to sample 20 different learning stations, youth had a good idea of what help makes the Badger state thrive.

Since Wisconsin is the dairy state, it was appropriate that one of the most popular stops was the dairy cow station where Brenda Conley, Dodge County’s dairy ambassador, provided young participants with an opportunity to enjoy a simulated milking experience.  Some live dairy calves were also on hand for the children to see.

Another hot spot of interest was the dairy goat area where Tammy Winkelman showed students how to milk a goat. Winkelman brought a goat from her Pewaukee farm and described to the children how popular goats milk is throughout the world.

Milking a goat was one of many opportunities students had when they took part in State Fair park’s first ever Ag Discovery Day last week.

She also wanted the children to understand how versatile goats are. The animals are raised for meat and milk as well as for fibers.

Stations included bees and honey, trees, crops, livestock judging, maple syrup, chicks and eggs, fruit, soil, urban farming, by-products of the ag industry and plenty of farm animals where kids could get up close to cows, chicks, lambs and goats and more.

Tess Kerksen, the director of public relations for the Wisconsin State Fair, said the day was about celebrating Wisconsin agriculture and showing how it drives the state’s economy. She said it's essential to get kids out of the classroom and bring them to the fairgrounds.

Milwaukee fourth graders had an opportunity to learn about the various breeds of horses when they took part in the Ag Discovery Day program at Wisconsin State Fair Park last week. They were also able to practice grooming horse mane.

“It’s incredibly important for people to see an animal and livestock and all of these things. Usually they get that opportunity at the Wisconsin State Fair but now we are bringing it more in-depth, in a deeper educational dive for them to really see the elements of care for animals and education on agriculture,” said Kerksen.

She hopes that the event will help to encourage the children to spend just a little more time around the animals when the fair comes again in August.  She also points out that Ag Discovery Days further underscores the Fair's commitment to supporting local agriculture and cultivating the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals.

In addition to volunteer support, the event received financial support from the Wisconsin State Fair park Foundation and Interstate Parking.