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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

AgEcon/NAMA Club Offers Successful AgExperience for State Fairgoers in 2003

Farm Business Management Update, December 2003/January 2004

By Dixie Watts Reaves

For the sixth consecutive year, the AgEcon/NAMA Club teamed with Atlantic Rural Exposition and a number of sponsors from the agribusiness industry to provide an educational and interactive agricultural exhibit for state fairgoers. The 2003 exhibit, located in the Old Dominion Livestock Center and entitled the AgExperience, was co-chaired by Agricultural and Applied Economics students, Jessica Hynson and Meg Kyger. With the assistance of AgEcon/NAMA club members and faculty advisors, they created an educational display that focused on both crop and animal agriculture in Virginia. During the ten days of the fair, over 30 different Virginia Tech students and faculty members greeted fairgoers at the educational booth. Dressed in bright orange polo shirts these Ag Ambassadors provided fairgoers with basic agricultural facts about Virginia and U.S. agriculture.

The AgExperience was included in the 2003 educational exposition field trip planning guide and was well-received by both students and teachers. To indicate the diversity of agriculture in Virginia, a large map of the state of Virginia displayed pictures of commodities in the areas where they are most prevalent in the Commonwealth. A question and answer board offered an interactive way for booth visitors to learn about different grains produced in Virginia.

As in years past, a big draw of the exhibit was a hands-on activity geared to youth but enjoyed by fairgoers of all ages. Building on the concept of sand art, fairgoers created their own grain art in plastic honey jars, which they could take home as AgExperience souvenirs. Ingredients for this year's grain art included corn, wheat, soybeans, barley, and cottonseed. Approximately 5,000 grain art jars were created by fairgoers during the ten days of the fair.

A new addition to this year's AgExperience was an animal petting area. Ag Ambassadors accompanied children of all ages as they enjoyed petting Boer Goats from South Africa and a tame turkey, nicknamed "Hokie" by the Tech students. For many people, it was the first time they had ever touched either type of animal. Common questions included whether the goats were boy goats or girl goats and what the red thing was on the turkey's beak. Most expressed amazement at how soft the turkey was.

As they prepared to leave the exhibit, visitors were provided with a sticker declaring, "I'm AgExperienced!" with a picture of the Virginia Tech Hokie Bird driving a tractor. Additionally, fairgoers were provided with informational brochures with the AgExperience logo and Hokie Bird picture on the front and a list of sponsors on the back. Sponsors for the 2003 Ag Experience were

Platinum (at least $5,000):
Maroon ($500 - $999):
Orange ($1 - $499):
Virginia Farm Bureau Federation
Virginia Agribusiness Council
Cooperative Milk Producers Association Virginia Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Delmarva Poultry Industry
The Virginia State Dairymen's Association
Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics

The exhibit included a sponsor display board where these organizations were recognized for their contribution to the 2003 AgExperience.

Because a hurricane had passed through the previous week, causing many schools to close and changing plans to attend the fair, the turn-out of grade school children was lower in 2003 than in years past. However, fair-goers of all ages expressed appreciation for the hands-on learning opportunity provided by the AgExperience. For additional information about the AgExperience, or to become involved next year, contact Dixie Watts Reaves at or 540-231-6153.

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