For fifteen years the Gallatin Valley Farm Fair has educated a growing urban population on the role and benefits of agriculture. This year, the Gallatin Valley Agriculture Committee educated 1,200 fourth-grade students about all aspects of agriculture.
“We want them to learn about agriculture and the environment around them,” said Farm Fair Chair Patti Soares. “We want them to learn what farmers and ranchers do, where their food comes from and that farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land of their crops and animals.”
With less than two percent of the U.S. population involved in agriculture, outreach is important.
“It’s something that kids are missing these days,” said Soares. “They don’t get this in the classroom. So that’s why this program was started is so they learn about what’s around them and their food and where it comes from.”
Belgrade rancher and event volunteer Ed Brainard has hosted the Farm Fair on his family’s Ranch for the past seven years.
“Way back when we first started some of the presenters would say where does water come from?” said Brainard. “The reply was the grocery store or the faucet and the same with milk. It was a grocery store or refrigerator and we thought boy, you know, they need some background on this.”
The hands-on learning experience covers 16 different areas including the water cycle, bee health, forestry, beef cattle, horses, how bread is made from wheat, ATV safety, to even milking goats and cows. By far the most favorite activity is making homemade ice cream.
Co-founder of the Farm Fair Duane Burkenpas said it’s all a community effort.
“It’s so gratifying to see that it’s successful and encouraged by the community schools,” said Burkenpas. “The most meaningful thing is what seeing the community will do when asked to step up to the plate to further agriculture education.”
The Gallatin Valley Farm Fair also provides 4th-grade teachers with educational materials and curriculum to expand agriculture education in the classroom year-round. For more information visit http://gvfarmfair.org/.