KUNA, Idaho — Youngsters usually find lots to do at the multi-day Agricultural Exposition Kuna High School’s FFA chapter hosts each May.
Millie Padlo, a second-grader at Boise’s Highlands Elementary School, on May 9, the second of the expo’s four days, said she especially liked looking at the animals up close.
Classmate Brynn Chrisman said she liked the animals, too.
“And planting seeds,” she said.
The Ag Expo, which Kuna FFA members have put on for decades, gives students a way to experience the agricultural industry firsthand and begin to grasp its importance. The event draws just over 1,000 attendees per day.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Tonya Stern-Walls, who teaches first grade at Owyhee Elementary School in Boise. Youngsters get an early sampling of agriculture — from honeybees and ice cream to heavy equipment and technical work — while the high school students gain experience organizing the huge event, she said.
“They just don’t get this experience” elsewhere, said Ann Abeyta, also an Owyhee first-grade teacher.
KHS agriculture teachers Joe Blackstock, Shawn Dygert and Travis Edwards oversee their students, guiding attendees around lineups of big farm machines, taking them on hayrides and seeing animals, birds, plants and Agriculture in the Classroom interpretive displays.
Attendance easily reaches capacity each year, Dygert said.
Many of the first- and second-graders on hand were experiencing agriculture up close for the first time, said KHS junior Katie Hettinga, the FFA chapter president. “They also get to see how agriculture connects to their home lives.”
KHS senior Savannah Stroebel, a state FFA officer, said neither she nor Hettinga grew up in agriculture. Their first exposure to the industry came through the Ag Expo at Kuna High. They both plan to attend the University of Idaho — Stroebel this fall as an ag education major and Hettinga the following year to study ag policy and law.
Demand is high for people with agriculture education and training, Dygert and Stroebel said.
But as a school-hosted expo theme, why agriculture?
“People have just lost track of where their food and fiber come from,” Dygert said. Some are moving from urban to rural areas.
“We live this, and these kids barely get to see it,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t think we realize how lucky we are because we get to have this agricultural lifestyle.”
In the afternoons and evenings, the expo’s open house draws visitors of all ages, Dygert said.