Teaching the basics at Pike County ag day

Together with farmers at Pike County ag day

Something special happens every May in Pike County between the farm community and about 500 third grade students in school districts throughout the southern Ohio county. In 2017, Pike County Farm Bureau hosted its 20th annual Agriculture Awareness Day at the county fairgrounds. Spreading the word about how the real world of agriculture works and introducing 8- and 9-year-olds to the neighbors who grow their food in this rural county is more of a necessity than one might think.

Pike County Farm Bureau Board Trustee Mandy Way of Way Farms spoke about the power of pollinators at Agriculture Awareness Day, left. Also during the event Bernie Neal took students on a hayride.
Pike County Farm Bureau Board Trustee Mandy Way of Way Farms spoke about the power of pollinators at Agriculture Awareness Day, left. Also during the event Bernie Neal took students on a hayride.

“So many kids feel their food comes from a grocery store. It doesn’t,” said Kim Harless, organization director for Farm Bureaus in Pike, Scioto and Jackson-Vinton counties. “This event gives kids the opportunity to meet the people who grow their food for them and put a face with a producer.” Yet building that relationship takes more than just a day. Creating anticipation about the annual outing is something Farm Bureau members have down to a science. Each year third graders in the county are asked to design a T-shirt for the event weeks before ag day takes place.

“The designs are judged and the winner’s whole class gets to wear the T-shirts all day long,” said Pike County Board President Mackenzie Williams. “We have an awards ceremony for the runners-up and honorable mentions.” All students get a T-shirt at the end of the day, she said. Those shirts are included as part of a package of agriculture-related items distributed to each teacher at the conclusion of the event. The goal is for students to take home information about what they learned at ag day and share it with their parents.

Pike County Ag Awareness Day

Ag day in Pike County is a great example of what Farm Bureau’s year-long theme of Together with Farmers encompasses. Whether its lobbying lawmakers to accomplish needed tax relief or teaching an 8-year-old the difference between a Jersey cow and a Holstein cow, membership in Farm Bureau makes it happen. “To be a sponsor or an exhibitor at ag day you have to be a member of Farm Bureau,” Williams said. “People want to be involved and we’re always looking for new and exciting ways to make it fun for the kids. People are willing to (become members) to be a part of the event.”

Beyond Farm Bureau there are 19 sponsors of the event — from local banks and Southern Ohio Medical Center to a plumbing company and the local YMCA. All are Farm Bureau members. “We are proud that every person participating is a Farm Bureau member,” Harless said, “and once they become a member we get so many ‘thank yous’ (from new members) because they enjoy what they do and being a part of this event.”

Pike County Farm Bureau Board Trustee Steven Brunner of Brunner Farms talked to students about taking care of dairy cows, including baby calves.
Pike County Farm Bureau Board Trustee Steven Brunner of Brunner Farms talked to students about taking care of dairy cows, including baby calves.

The kids visit 18 exhibitors, all of whom also are Farm Bureau members. They have a chance to learn about everything from popcorn farming, powerful pollinators, livestock and commercial logging to seat belt safety, recycling, healthy snacking, physical fitness and more.

Students in the county also got an up-close look at the cows themselves.
Students in the county also got an up-close look at the cows themselves.

Making this kind of community connection between farmers and their neighbors through this event was the goal when Agriculture Awareness Day was created all those years ago, according to county Board Member Dan Corcoran, and it has thrived. “Pike County Farm Bureau started ag day because we wanted to be a part of the community. We wanted to have an opportunity to let the community know what’s going on in the county as far as agriculture was concerned,” Corcoran said. “Who better to tell the story than those who do the work everyday.”

For more on Pike County Agriculture Awareness Day, view the following video of the event.

Photos by Neal Lauron