Promoting Ag to the Public

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Those that know me, know that I have a serious love and passion for the Iowa State Fair. I grew up in southwest Iowa, showed at the Fair through 4-H, interned there for several summers with the Blue Ribbon Foundation, and 4-H and now I take vacation time to volunteer selling water and merchandise. In my 24 years of life, I’m proud to say I’ve attended each of the last 24 Iowa State Fairs.

Something struck me as interesting this year however. I was very impressed by the consumer outreach done by agricultural groups. Though I realize all things “on a stick” are popular at the fair, my family always heads for the Cattleman’s tent showcasing Iowa Beef or the Iowa Pork tent. Occasionally, we hit up the Iowa Turkey Federation and the Iowa Sheep producers as well. These commodity groups are known for their outstanding Iowa products. What’s a better opportunity to show consumers a local cattleman doing what he loves- raising and producing safe and healthy and abundant beef than while they are eating a phenomenal prime rib dinner? Or in my case, a taco potato!

Meet a cattle farmer!

Fun facts

So many groups did a great job in using the fair as an opportunity to connect with consumers. After all, they were right there cooking and serving so folks could ask questions face-to-face with the farmers and ranchers.

The Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center was another central location for farm facts and children’s activities. At different times they had representatives talk to the audience usually hundred’s at a time about farming, food, and health guidelines. I was pleased as punch when I walked in to the building and heard a woman doing an excellent job at addressing questions and parents’ fears about high fructose corn syrup.

Gotta love corn facts!

More corn!

Egg facts

In addition to presentations, cows, sheep, lambs, goats, chickens, turkeys and pigs are being born daily in the Animal Learning Center. Baby pigs are my favorite!

There's always a line to see the baby pigs!

One of the biggest attractions at the Iowa State Fair is the famous butter cow! This year, the Iowa State Fair celebrated 100 years of the butter cow with deep-fried butter on a stick (yes, you just read that correctly) and butter carving! Each day fair-goers were at the Bill Riley Stage carving a block of butter. Of course the E85 themed one was my favorite!

E85 Butter Carving

My brother and a friend pose with the dairy facts

I also had the opportunity to learn a little about the Iowa Food & Family  initiative at the fair, which is funded by the Iowa Soybean Checkoff. It involves families, farmers, farm and commodity organizations, retailers, food relief organizations and a variety of interested and capable partners.

Its mission is “To inspire positive relationships between farmers and consumers through personal engagement, advocacy and education to the benefit of human vitality, environmental quality and economic prosperity.”

Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum has been gearing up for Agriland at the Kansas State Fair– September 9-18. Agriland is a collective effort of several agricultural groups including Kansas Corn, Kansas Grain Sorghum, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Soybeans, Kansas Wheat, Kansas Dairy, Kansas Agri-Women, Kansas Beef, Kansas Sunflowers, and the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom.

It is important for ag groups to promote the healthy and abundant food at events but never stop using valuable time in the grocery store checkout line or while waiting to fuel up at the gas station as a “teaching moment”. Consumers want the facts and farmers have them.

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