Elk, Baby Chickens, Cattle and Llamas – Oh My!

With the cold, winter temperatures and the holidays nearly over, your thoughts may be turning to summer. One of our family’s favorite activities during the summer is the Iowa State Fair. It has lots of fun activities and most importantly, it’s an opportunity to expose our daughters to agriculture.

We live in an urban area so my daughters aren’t exposed to agriculture the way I was growing up. My family was not a farming family but I walked my share of beans growing up. Plus, we raised and showed Registered Paint Horses and later after I left for college, my dad started raising Registered Purebred Rocky Mountain Elk. My husband grew up in urban areas but his grandparents had farms that he visited in the summers. We think it’s important for our daughters to be exposed to agriculture so they’re involved in activities such as 4-H (yes, 4-H is in urban areas!). We also take them to county fairs and the Iowa State Fair plus other agriculture-related activities. Much to my daughter’s dismay, urban zoning laws for the city we reside in don’t allow us to raise small animals such as chickens or rabbits for 4-H projects. Events like the Iowa State Fair offers us the chance to expose our daughters to farming through several areas – the Avenue of the Breeds, the Animal Learning Center and Little Hands on the Farm.

Avenue of Breeds
Avenue of the BreedsThe Avenue of Breeds is one location at the fair that showcases Iowa’s diverse livestock industry. Located in the northwest corner of the Swine Barn, this area includes more than 120 different animals. From elk to llamas, chickens to horses, and fish to cattle, you can walk up and down the aisle and find a variety of animals.

Educational information is presented with each animal exhibited including the animal’s breed type, origin, main purpose, and description, among other features. Members of the North Polk FFA chapter volunteer to answer questions throughout the day and they also care for the animals during the fair.

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It’s fun to see all the different breeds of animals up close and read about their purpose. For my city girls, it’s a chance to see exotic animals such as the elk and llama as well as farm animals such as goats, chickens, and pigs, among others.

If you’re not able to visit the fair, you can also learn about these animals by following #AveofBreeds on Facebook and Twitter during the fair. The Avenue of Breeds is sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers.

Animal Learning Center
This is one of the most popular spots at the fair every year. It gives fairgoers a chance to see real farm animals up close. The state-of-the-art education exhibit also features live births of various animals including cattle, swine, goats, and sheep. This provides an excellent opportunity for young and old to learn about the animal birthing process.

Don’t be distracted by all the cuteness, though. The building also provides lots of information throughout the space that you can read to learn more about each animal. There are also animal volunteers on hand taking care of the animals who are also available to answer your questions. The center also features regular stage presentations where you can learn more about livestock and Iowa agriculture. Be sure to keep an eye out for the days that the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation is presenting a session in the Animal Learning Center!

Little Hands on the Farm
Located next to the Animal Learning Center is Little Hands on the Farm. This is a chance for your child to play farmer for the day. This interactive adventure invites kids to learn what it is like to do chores on a farm and earn play money to spend at the grocery store Little Hands on the Farm 2at the end of their journey. Throughout their journey they’ll get a glimpse of a modern swine barn, plant some vegetables, pick apples, feed animals, collect chicken eggs, milk a cow and more. It’s a fun adventure where kids don’t even know they’re learning along the way! It’s one of my daughters’ favorite activities at the fair.

No matter where you live agriculture learning opportunities are all around for your family to take part in. It just takes a matter of looking and marking your calendars. Who knows, maybe through these opportunities it will spark an interest in your child for a possible future in agriculture!

-Melissa

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