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This photo from last year’s Ag Education Center shows visitors of all ages learning more about agriculture at the fair.

WEST FARGO, N.D. – As people become more and more removed from the farm, many of the fairs held in North Dakota are increasing their ag education efforts as a way to increase the urban population’s understanding of agriculture. A prime example of that takes place in the midst of the largest urban population center in the region – the activities at the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo.

In 2018, fair officials unveiled an entirely new program focusing on ag education. It was held in what is called the “Youth Education Center,” and it proved to be huge success, according to Lisa Farquhar, ag education co-coordinator at the fair.

“We had ordered 1,000 shopping bags for those going through the education center, thinking they would last for the entire six days of the fair, but we had run out of bags at the end of four hours on the first day,” Farquhar said. “This year we have ordered 12,000 shopping bags and are hoping that will be enough.”

The basic design of the program remains the same as last year, but Farquhar and Emily Grunewald, the other co-coordinator, have found ways to enhance a visit to the ag education facility. In outlining those changes, Farquhar gave a quick verbal tour.

The tour will start with all of the commodities that are grown in the area and proceed to a new stop this year, a granary, which will also have a grinding station.

“This will not only show grinding wheat for flour to make bread and pasta, but also for animal feed, because after we finish harvesting our crops we need to take care of our animals,” she said.

The next few stops will feature taking care of livestock, from gathering eggs and watching chicks being hatched, to turkeys and how they are processed. Then it is on to the beef station that will feature a three-month old calf and the cuts of beef that will eventually come from that calf, followed by a stop at the sheep and goat station.

The next stop is probably the most popular in the building, according to Farquhar – the dairy station. This will include Daisy, a cow that can be milked, a refrigerator that will display the many different dairy products and a small dairy calf. The hog station is next with a market hog, as well as a sow and her piglets.

Then it will on to growing crops. This year they have taken the crops they will continue to display inside the building and show each of them actually growing in a garden area outside the Ag Education Building.

“You will be able to see the end product inside and the growing stages of it outside,” she explained. “We have wheat, oats, barley, sunflowers, sugarbeets, corn and soybeans, along with a few garden vegetables growing in the garden area.”

Then the ag education tour will go back in the building where bees will be the feature, where it will be demonstrated how important they are for certain crops and what they do for the environment.

While stopping at all the stations, you will have received a sample of many of the products, put them in a shopping bag, and now it will be time to market those products and receive some “ag education money” and go to the grocery store and spend that cash.

Although the information at the Ag Education Center is geared to the 12- to 14-year old level, it is a great place to learn more about agriculture for all age groups, Grunewald said.

The Red River Valley Fair runs from July 9-14, and a complete schedule of events and other information about the fair can be found on their web site: www.redrivervalleyfair.com.