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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

AgEcon/NAMA Club Presents Farm Tours at State Fair

Farm Business Management Update, October 1998

By Dixie Watts Reaves of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

People who work in the vast agribusiness system have a deep appreciation for agriculture and its impacts on society and the economy. However, less that two percent of the U.S. population is involved in production agriculture, and many individuals who are a part of the agribusiness system do not realize that they are. Furthermore, seven out of ten U.S. citizens have no ties to farming, either through their parents or their grandparents. The number of individuals with no understanding of or appreciation for agriculture will continue to grow, as each successive generation is farther and farther removed from farming. The 1998 Virginia State Fair instituted a new attraction to help people learn more about agriculture and to help them gain a greater appreciation for how their food and clothing are produced.

The AgEcon/NAMA Club of Virginia Tech formed a joint venture with the Atlantic Rural Exposition and Virginia's agribusinesses to provide an educational and entertaining farm tour during the State Fair. Students and faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, as well as industry representatives and recent graduates, served as guides for tours through the fair's agricultural exhibit areas. Individual club members benefited from this educational experience, taking advantage of the opportunity to share their knowledge with others and to interact more closely with industry representatives. Primary sponsors of the tours were Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council.

The tour was composed of two primary elements. First, tour participants were given a broad overview of agriculture and its importance to the economy and the world. Surveys indicate that 98 percent of the 550,000+ fairgoers in 1997 had little or no knowledge of agriculture, but had a desire to learn more about farm life. Tour participants were presented with pertinent facts while touring popular attractions (the Old Dominion Barn, Virginia World, the Horticulture Courtyard and Greenhouse):

Agriculture is the largest industry in the U.S., employing 1 in 5 people Agribusiness is a broad industry, encompassing the firms that supply farmers with inputs, the actual on-farm production, and the entire marketing system that it takes to get a product from the producer to the consumer On average, farmers receive approximately 22 cents of each dollar spent on food U.S. residents spend only 11 percent of their disposable income on food Agriculture is a technological industry, utilizing global positioning systems to apply nutrients where they are needed most, and producing top quality products using advanced genetics

In addition to general agricultural facts, tour guides incorporated information about the agricultural products or services provided by each of the tour's associate sponsors: Marva Maid Dairy, Southern States Cooperative, Virginia Cattlemen's Association, and Virginia State Feed Association. Information about the two primary sponsors, Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Agribusiness Council, was also provided.

Youth tour participants were provided with a sticker, indicating that they had been "down on the farm." Adult participants, as well as passers-by, were given a brochure containing pertinent agricultural facts and a list of tour sponsors. Participants were given an opportunity to ask questions about Virginia's agricultural commodities that were on display at the farm tour booth. Tour guides answered questions and interacted with fair-goers of all ages. State Fair Farm Tours were intended to be a fun and educational experience for tour participants and tour guides alike. The tours have helped to achieve the goals of the Ag Initiative by creating a more informed public. The agricultural industry as a whole benefited from this educational effort, as did the individual sponsors.

In recognition of the efforts of the AgEcon/NAMA Club to provide an innovative and educational experience for 1998 fair-goers, fair directors presented the club with a Directors' Choice Award, indicating the quality of the display booth and event.

The Club will use the funds generated from the event to fund their trip to the annual national agri-marketing competition, held in April in Atlanta, Georgia. Comments or questions about State Fair Farm Tours or the national competition can be directed to Dixie Reaves at 540-231-6153 or

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