- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - Children squealed with delight, amidst clucking, mooing, oinking and various other farmyard sounds on Sept. 28 as the Madison County Fairgrounds hosted 4-H Farm and Food Field Days.

The two-day event drew about 800 Madison County third-graders who circulated between learning stations set up to help children make the connection between their daily lives and agriculture, said Miranda Shearer, Madison County Extension Agent for 4-H/Youth Development.

Focus was placed on crops grown locally.

Food demonstrations/learning stations featured topics such as corn, wheat, eggs and how seeds grow into plants. There were pigs, beef/dairy cattle, horses, goats and backyard chickens.

For additional fun, children were treated to a hayride.

“We hoped to cover a wide spectrum of topics,” said Shearer.

Madison County 4-H organized the event, asking local producers to tell the children about the origin of what they eat.

Having agriculture professionals speak was more effective than having a class on the subject.

Because many families no longer have a farming background, Shearer said events such as Farm and Food Field Days are essential in a complete education.

“As consumers, we need to know what we’re buying when we go to the grocery store,” she said. “(Most of us) depend on someone else to grow our food and produce our food products. With all the new words you hear now related to food, it’s important that we understand what those words mean, and don’t mean.”

The children often were surprised by their discoveries, especially in regard to animal agriculture. One child was astonished to learn the “chicken” in his favorite treats was once a living breathing animal, Shearer said.

To help children learn where their food comes from, she suggest parents involve them in preparing food, taking time to talk about what items are made of and by taking them grocery shopping.

During the event, Shearer said several teenage volunteers stepped up to play a number of roles, including presenter. The teens were current or former 4-H members.

“We like having them here,” she said of the teenagers. “The younger kids relate to them better, and it helps them improve their public speaking skills. They are amazing.”

Teen presenter Ty Allen said he hoped to teach children the importance of agriculture in their community.

“I just want kids to know that every once in a while it’s okay to get their hands dirty and spend some time with a muddy animal,” Allen said. “Animals can teach us a lot.”

Grace Cruse, who gave a cow presentation, said it was rewarding and fun to engage with the children and help them learn.

Additionally, Shearer thanked the event sponsors: Berea College Farms, Eastern Kentucky University’s Meadowbrook Farm, Madison County Farm Bureau, and the Madison County Fair Board.

She said the event has become popular, with more schools wanting to come than could attend. Farm and Food Field Days may be expanded in the future, Shearer added.

At the end of the day, the 4-H agent said her hope is that children learn farmers are their friends, that they are feeding the world.

“We want kids to understand farming is an important part of our lifestyle,” Shearer said. “It’s an important part of our county. And it’s an important part of our culture. Agriculture is fun. And maybe kids can start to draw some connections back to their own home, and maybe even leave with some ideas of things they might like to do in the future.”

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Information from: Richmond Register, http://www.richmondregister.com

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