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Revving up for the state fair

Growing up I spent countless days of summer at fairs — 4-H fair, county fair, and if I was lucky, the Illinois State Fair.

The fair season was always a busy time around our house. My brother showed livestock, while my sister and I focused more on crafts, fruits and vegetables, flowers and even dabbled a bit into cake decorating.

I will never forget the excitement I felt every time the judging was complete and I could finally see what place I earned. Everyone was battling for the same thing — the purple grand champion ribbon. This ribbon wasn’t just a ribbon; it was your ticket into the state fair.

For me, the state fair wasn’t just about showing my skill in arranging a vegetable display; it was about seeing everything the fair had to offer — the lumberjack show, the butter cow, apple cider slushies, kettle corn and so much more.

The state fair is rapidly approaching, and again this year, FSA will have an exhibit in the Illinois Department of Agriculture tent in the Agri-Expo area located directly behind the Ethnic Village area inside Gate 2.   

FSA employees throughout the state help at the FSA booth and the Farm Safety Grain Bin demonstration in partnership with Monsanto–Illiopolis corn plant.

FSA has 22 ambassadors that help year round with AgriAbility activities including the exhibit at the state fair and providing information on assisting people with disabilities employed in agriculture.

Sunday, Aug. 18 has been designated as USDA Day in the Illinois Department of Agriculture tent. Plans are being coordinated with Rural Development (RD) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to present a short program (featuring MicroLoans from FSA, Rural Housing Loans from RD and EQUIP projects from NRCS) in the morning.

As a new addition in 2010, the Illinois State Fair staff added a children’s hands-on activity called “Farmers Little Helper,” and it is located inside Gate 2 as well.

“Farmers Little Helper” is designed “as a hands-on agriculture learning experience”, regarding the whole “farm to the dinner table concept” with hopes of teaching all Americans (both children and adults) more about where their food supply originates and how it makes its way to their dinner table.

The children will be given feed in a bucket to feed the animals; they can milk a cow; they will be allowed to comb a sheep and take a sample of real wool with them; as well as collect eggs from the chickens, etc.

FSA will sponsor the sheep barn again this year, which will have FSA facts and information regarding meat cuts of lamb, products made out of wool and wool clothing on display, as well as a sheep and grooming stand with all the equipment needed to groom sheep.

I don’t return to the state fair as frequently as I had in my youth, but when I do, I never forget to stop at all my childhood favorites, and I encourage you and your family to make agriculture education a favorite for you while visiting the state fair.

Justina Boggio is the county executive director for the Bureau County Farm Service Agency.

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