FILER, Idaho — Minutes before the show, it looked like the “Thank A Farmer lady” wouldn’t have an audience. But kids of all ages — from infants to great grandparents — quickly filled the chairs and floor in the Ag Pavilion at the Twin Falls County Fair, and the show was off to an energetic start.
Joyce Rice, founder and presenter of the Thank A Farmer Magic Show, hails from a sixth-generation family farm in Iowa and is passionate about spreading an appreciation for farmers. For the past 12 years, she’s traveled all over the country performing a magic act that incorporates agricultural education.
Instead of abracadabra, the magic words “Thank a farmer” are enthusiastically chanted by the audience.
She promised the show would give the audience “fun farm facts to fool your family, friends and other fine folks,” and it delivered, even impressing people who had farmed for 50 years.
For instance, most didn’t know that a dollar bill is made from cotton and flax, which is why it can be laundered.
Another fact folks found surprising is that all four parts of a baseball — the stearic acid that stabilizes the rubber core and the cotton string, wool and cowhide surrounding it — are made from agricultural products.
The audience laughed and hooted at her antics and magic tricks but also learned the importance of farmers and ranchers, who provide food, clothing and housing material — in addition to money and baseballs.
“Farmers are the root of our economy,” she said, talking about all the jobs and businesses agriculture creates.
She wore crazy hats and used agricultural products in her magic tricks and juggling, imparting fun facts about agriculture along the way.
The heart of the advocacy program is education and raising awareness, but “everyone learns best when they’re having fun. You can get smart and have fun at the same time,” she said.
A half-hour program can’t do all that much education, but it can foster appreciation and awareness, she said.
The Thank A Farmer program — which includes educational materials and speaking and consulting services — was created by Rice’s daughter, Rhonda Ross Swanson, in response to farm kids being bullied by town kids.
There are agricultural education programs for high school students, but no one was doing children’s education,” she said.
The younger children are, the better they learn. Once they become aware of something, they notice it all the time, and once they develop a good feeling about agriculture and farmers, they never lose it, she said.
After the show, Viola Mulvaney, 7, of Buhl said she learned “farmers help us.”
She also learned how to make a cornstalk out of newspaper and that baseballs are made out of “farm stuff.”
Lynsie Nebecker, 11, of Twin Falls said she liked the magic tricks and how Rice involved the audience. She also learned that money is made out of cotton and baseballs are made with cowhide.
And she can’t wait to tell her mother she’s “pretty as a pig” when she puts on lipstick before church, because (the glycerin in) lipstick comes from pigs.
For more information, visit thankafarmer.org