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Fourteen key lessons in agriculture

Bureau County Ag Fair marks 25 years of teaching about farming to fourth-graders

PRINCETON — Bureau County fourth-graders learned about the world of agriculture that surrounds them Thursday during a series of quickly paced, hands-on seminars designed to be both informative and entertaining.

Those students were fortunate enough to be part of the 25th annual Bureau County Ag Fair held at the fairgrounds in Princeton. This event sees students making timed, nine-minute stops at 14 different stations providing information about dairy, embryology, safety, pork, corn, seeds, conservation, beef, soybeans, wheat, technology, equipment, large animals and small animals.

Jill Frueh, manager of the Bureau County Farm Bureau, said: “We’ve been doing this for so long, it runs very smoothly now. We owe so much to our volunteers who help make this possible. They do a wonderful job teaching the students about the different parts of agriculture in Illinois.”

Frueh also said the Ag Fair has reached the point where the children of those students attending the first fair are now sharing it with their own children.

“Being a generational event now is one more thing that makes this so special,” she said of the fair.

The Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and the Bureau County Ag Coalition Committee started the Ag Fair. The Women’s Committee handles the organizing process, and the Ag Coalition members plan their individual presentations. Any considerations for change come through observation of the event, teachers’ input and suggestions from the volunteers.

The planning process begins about five months in advance, and the committee works with local businesses, farmers, state and county commodity groups, the U of I Extension, FS, the Soil and Water Conservation District, local FFA members and Gateway.

Volunteers are recruited, 75 in all, to serve as presenters, time keepers, bus directors, goodie bag distributors and several other positions that help keep the fair running as smoothly as possible.

“Ag Fair is the best kept secret in Bureau County,” a teacher attending the event said.

Hundreds of students from more than a dozen classrooms attended, and the presentations throughout the event were well organized, clever and engaging. Students learned about soil conservation through a game show-style format.

While learning about farming equipment, students were able to see precisely how seeds moved through the machinery and into the soil, as well as how sprayers make their applications to crops.

The wheat and corn stations each had a wide range of everyday items containing products from the different grains.

Another station used a small-scale model of a farm to teach students about farm safety as students looked for a variety of unsafe situations such as driving a tractor with the bucket raised or operating a piece of elevated equipment beneath a power line.

Students visiting the animal stations were able to talk with and ask questions of local FFA students about the care involved with each different animal. There were rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats, bucket calves, a donkey, a piglet, a horse and a cow. There was also plenty of petting available.

Volunteer Katie Donofrio said the teachers typically hold a few lessons prior to attending the fair so their students can begin learning about the many aspects of agriculture they’ll see at the event.

“This event is important because it helps teach our students about the importance of local agriculture because fewer of them are exposed to farm life than in the past,” she said.

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