DARKE COUNTY — The Great Darke County Fair has found a new way to engage kids in learning about agriculture.
The county fair has been chosen by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to bring the Agriculture is Cool (Ag is Cool) program to the fair beginning Aug. 15. To kick off the program, the fair board is offering a coloring contest for kids age 5 to 11. The coloring page is in today’s paper.
According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ag is Cool program was inspired by Gov. John R. Kasich in 2011. Several interactive education stations are placed throughout the state fair where students have the opportunity to learn about the many ways Ohio’s largest industry – agriculture – affects many facets of their everyday lives.
“When we were asked to be a part of this type of program, we saw the opportunity to be a vehicle to provide information to children attending the fair to allow them to learn something about agriculture,” said Matt Aultman, vice president of the Darke County Agricultural Society.
Aultman said that on average, society is three generations removed from production agriculture and the children going through the program are working on becoming the fourth generation.
“We all enjoy to eat, and we also enjoy the freedom we have in this country not to worry where our next meal is coming from,” Aultman said. “Most people, when asked in metropolitan areas, believe that food comes from the grocery and is not produced on the farm and then sold at the grocery. This program allows us to bridge this misunderstanding and possibly opens new doors to those wanting to be part of food production.”
To aide in learning about agriculture, an informational booth will be placed close to the Youth building and informational posters will be spread throughout the fairgrounds with fun facts about items involved in the production of food.
Aultman said he’d like to see the program grow and be as big as the one offered at the Ohio State Fair — presenting to every fourth grader that visits the fair.
“We wish everyone to come visit the informational tent and get involved and to make their way through the different parts of the fair to find and learn something new while they visit The Great Darke County Fair this year,” Aultman said.
The fair board tried to involve many different groups in this project, Aultman said, but the organization of this program fell under the Senior Fairboard Junior Fair Committee and with a great deal of help from Beth Martin.
“With her help and direction, this project come together to present at this year’s fair,” he said.
The program is lead by Aultman, Velma Campbell, Cindy Riffle, Dick Delk and Jerry Marker as Senior Fairboard Junior Fair committee members; Beth Martin, Darke County Junior Fair; and Mike Vartorella, ODA fairs director and Lori Panda, ODA senior program manager.