By: Jesse Davis
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Hundreds of elementary students swarmed the Fulton County Fairgrounds this month to learn more about nature and how people benefit from it at the annual Fulton County 3rd Grade Ag Fest.
Through the program, put on by the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District, every third grader in the county both at public and parochial schools are able to attend the event over its two-day span. Counting the students along with teachers and the county commissioners – who serve lunch to the students – roughly 800 people are involved either as participants or volunteers.
Education Specialist Amanda Podach said the event has been going on since 2005, when it was focused on fourth-grade students. That focus was shifted to third grade after the first few years due to it better aligning with curriculum standards.
Each of the students gets to experience 10 of the total 17 hands-on exhibits and receives a t-shirt and lunch, both at no cost to the schools.
“We have everything from goats, dairy, we have FFA kids from Fayette and Pettisville teaching small animals – so a lot of peer teaching going on down there, we have bees, pork, a veterinarian, clean water,” Podach said.
“This is so kids get the chance to see firsthand where their food comes from and why agriculture is important, being the number one industry.”
According to Podach, presenters come from throughout the community. “They love the day, they feel it’s important, and so I’ve been blessed to have them keep coming back year after year and presenting for me,” she said.
At the goat exhibit, Linda Bollinger shared a similar enthusiasm for connecting young students with the environment around them.
In addition to her own work raising goats over the years, Bollinger also leads the Goats and Udder Things 4-H Club.
She said the experience of milking a goat at the station always excites the kids, and that the timing of the event is optimal for their continued involvement with the animals.
“4-H is coming up, they’re at the right age next year to join 4-H. They could show a goat in the fair and have a good time, it just depends on the parents and where their location is. You can’t have them in the city.”
Several presenters echoed Podach’s sentiment, sharing their desire to improve the relationship between the children and their food source, so they understand exactly what it takes for food to make it to their dinner table.
“People have to know where their food comes from,” beekeeper Roger Myers said. Myers, along with wife Judy, runs Myers Honey in Swanton. The couple have kept bees for 27 years.
“We start young with the third graders teaching them where it comes from,” he said. “It doesn’t come from the back of the Walmart store, someone had to grow it.”
At the pork exhibit, Chris Ott said much the same. “We basically just like to let the kids know that we raise these pigs for meat,” Ott said.
“We’re farmers, that’s how we make a living, and we feed the United States as well as the world with our pork.”
“A third of the pork that we produce goes overseas, whether it’s Mexico or Japan. We like to stress that that’s why we raise pigs.”
Bollinger, Ott and the Myers have all been participating in the Ag Fest since its inception.
Jesse can be reached at email@example.com