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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

AgEcon/NAMA Club Provides "Ag Experience" at State Fair

Farm Business Management Update, October 1999

By Dixie Reaves

For the second consecutive year, the AgEcon/NAMA Club has teamed with Atlantic Rural Exposition to provide an agricultural educational exhibit for state fairgoers. The 1999 exhibit is entitled the "Ag Experience." Co-chairs, Kelly Beckley and Chip Jones, with the assistance of many other club members, created an educational display that focused on both crop and animal agriculture in Virginia. In addition to information about crops and livestock, students at the educational booth, dressed in bright orange and called "Ag Ambassadors," provided fairgoers with basic agricultural facts about Virginia and U.S. agriculture. For example, many fairgoers were surprised to learn that less than 2 percent of the population provides the raw food and fiber products for the entire country; Americans spend approximately 11 percent of their disposable income on food; and farmers receive, on average, 22 cents of each dollar spent on food in the U.S.

At the entrance to the exhibit was an "Ag Experience" farm scene, complete with farmer and farm animals, painted by club member Micki Young. The scene included two face cut-outs so that fairgoers could have their picture taken "down on the farm." Micki also created the farm scene that was used for the "Ag Ambassador" t-shirts.

To help fairgoers better relate to the agricultural industry, club member Kim Hayes developed a component of the display that indicated how raw agricultural products become consumer products. Through pictures and product samples, she showed how wheat becomes flour, how raw milk becomes pasteurized, homogenized milk, and how cotton becomes fabric. To represent the diversity of agriculture in Virginia, members Monty Schilter and Kelly Beckley created a large cut-out of the state of Virginia and placed pictures of commodities in the areas where they are most prevalent in the Commonwealth.

Marva Maid's educational display, which was located in the area adjacent to the "Ag Experience" display and included information on a number of agricultural commodities, was an outstanding educational partner for the AgEcon/NAMA Club. The biggest draw of the "Ag Experience" exhibit was a hands-on activity, geared to youth but enjoyed by fairgoers of all ages. Building on the concept of "sand art," students first explained the multiple uses of Virginia's four most prominent grains and then allowed fairgoers to create their own "grain art" in plastic honey jars, which they could take home as "Ag Experience" souvenirs. Five thousand "grain art" jars were created by fairgoers during the ten days of the fair. Exhibit visitors were also provided with a sticker declaring, "I'm Ag Experienced!" with a picture of the Virginia Tech Hokie Bird driving a tractor. Faculty member Bobby Beamer created the design. Additionally, fairgoers were provided with informational brochures (containing data provided by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) with the "Ag Experienced" logo and Hokie Bird picture on the front and a list of sponsors on the back. Sponsors for the "Ag Experience" were as follows:

Platinum (at least $5,000): Virginia Farm Bureau Federation
Silver ($1,000 - $2,499): Virginia Agribusiness Council
Maroon ($500 - $999): Colonial and Blue Ridge Farm Credit
Orange ($1 - $499): Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Virginia-North Carolina Select Sires, Inc.
Waynesboro Nurseries

More than 20 students served as "Ag Ambassadors" during the course of the fair. Club advisors Eluned Jones, Dixie Watts Reaves, and Kurt Stephenson assisted the students with the preparation of the display, while Jones and Reaves also served as "Ag Ambassadors."

For additional information about the "Ag Experience," contact Dixie Reaves at (540) 231-6153 or

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