FILER, Idaho — Bridging the gap between the rural and urban understanding of agriculture is a tall order but one the Twin Falls County Farm Bureau fully embraces.
The organization is in its third year of operating the Ag Pavilion at the Twin Falls County Fair, taking over from Food Producers of Idaho in 2016.
“Our mission is to bring in Idaho ag to teach awareness of and importance of ag through hands-on ag education,” Judy Woody, Ag Pavilion supervisor and chairwoman of the Idaho Farm Bureau women’s leadership committee, said.
Farm Bureau started from scratch when it took over operations and keeps adding things each year, she said.
“We just do what we can to get the message out about agriculture,” she said.
The pavilion displays different aspects of agriculture in the Magic Valley through games, activities and presentations to educate visitors.
Displays and volunteers who interact with the public fill the open-air building providing information on commodities, technology, weeds, seeds, soil and rangeland.
The most popular are the seed “sandbox” and milking Maggie, a mechanical cow, Woody said.
But there are also educational games such as pinball to teach visitors about the beef industry, target toss to explain soil and water conservation and iPads loaded with My American Farm educational games.
There’s also a scavenger hunt to drive visitors to educational booths to find answers to ag-related questions. Scavengers return their completed game sheet to receive a ticket for a drawing in the dairy barn to get them to explore the livestock barns.
In addition to booths and activities, there were presentations this year on conservation, pollinators, ATV safety and cooking with beans and beef.
The pavilion also held its second annual welding competition for FFA chapters.
Commodity groups and commissions, universities, government agencies and local businesses all pitch in with displays, manpower and cash and prizes, Woody said.
Visitors to the pavilion often say they learned something new they didn’t know about agriculture, she said.
“A lot of educators will say ‘Wow, this is great you’re doing it, especially hands-on,’” she said.
For agriculture, “it’s a way to tell our story,” she said.
Anthony Machado, 10, said he didn’t know there were different types of thistle.
He also learned if you blow into soil with crops covering it, it doesn’t go anywhere — but without crops, it blows everywhere.
He also discovered that worms and no-till are good for soil and plowing is bad, he said.
Aidan Wright, 11, lives on his family’s farm and said he already knew a lot about agriculture.
But he didn’t know that flaked corn is good for cows until he visited the Ag Pavilion, he said — before running off with his scavenger sheet to find out how many beef cows are in Idaho.