Fun Ways to Learn About Agriculture at the Iowa State Fair

Some of my earliest memories are of riding in our camper and pulling into the Iowa State Fair to show our horses. I always knew when we passed by the Anderson Erickson cows that we were almost there. A lot has changed since I was a kid, but one thing hasn’t – the importance of agriculture to the state of Iowa. The Iowa State Fair is one large celebration of our Iowa’s agriculture industry and the important role it plays in our daily lives and economy.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the Iowa State Fair but I love that it provides an opportunity to take my children around to teach them more about agriculture. Here are a few of our favorite stops!

Avenue of the Breeds

From elk to horses and sheep to fish, this is the place to see 100 different breeds and approximately 120 different animals of all kinds. You’ll see breeds here that you can’t see anywhere else at the fair. Each breed has its own unique benefits and purpose. When they’re side by side it’s amazing to see all the differences. Representatives are available in the hallways to ask questions about the animals. The Avenue of the Breeds is located west of the 4-H Building.

Little Hands on the Farm

Little Hands on the Farm

This is a place where the kids get a chance to get their hands dirty and become a farmer. Kids will plant, grow, harvest, and sell their produce just like a farmer. They’ll get a basket and proceed along a path that includes a garden, grain bin, apple orchard, chicken coop, tractor shed, sheep barn, and dairy barn. After gathering items along the way they’ll get the chance to sell these items at the Farmers’ Market and spend their money at the grocery store.

Milk a Cow at the Milking Parlor

Learn how cows are milked at the Milking Parlor, which is located on the north side of the Cattle barn. You’ll learn all you want about a cow’s life on a dairy farm. Once you’re done, enjoy an ice cream cone at the Dairy Barn nearby.

Meet Baby Animals at the Animal Learning Center

Get up close and personal with all kinds of farm babies from ducklings and calves to piglets and chicks. You never know what you might see in the Animal Learning Center including animal babies being born. There are veterinary students on hand to oversee the animals so it’s a great opportunity to ask questions about animals, veterinary sciences, and agriculture. The Animal Learning Center is located south of the Little Hands on the Farm.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My garden is brown and dead so maybe I need a trip to The Garden at the Iowa State Fair to get some help. Kids can learn how a garden grows. This area is full of garden beds and displays to teach kids how vegetables take root in Iowa soil and grow. There is also a special composting exhibit that teaches the value of ecology and sustainability. The Garden is located north of the Little Hands on the Farm.

IALF Activities at the Fair

If you’re at the fair on certain days, you’ll have a chance to see agriculture learning in action. IALF has two main activities at the fair this year.

  • Big Four Cooking Competition  
    • Wednesday, Aug. 17, 1:30 p.m., Elwell Food Building
    • IALF honors Iowa’s agriculture industry and its biggest commodities of corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs, through this cooking contest each year. Stop by to see our judges determine the winners this year!
  • STEM Day at the Fair
    • Sunday, Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Grand Concourse
    • Join us to learn more about biodegradable packing peanuts with hands-on activities.

There is a ton of agriculture learning that can happen at the fair if you just look for it. What are some of your favorite agricultural learning activities at the fair?

~Melissa

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