FILER, Idaho — Making milk disappear into a magic corn stock constructed of newspaper delighted youngsters of all ages at the Twin Falls County Fair.
But it also provided a segue for Joyce Rice — the "Thank a Farmer Lady" — to educate the audience about corn’s many uses, such as ethanol to fuel trucks and cars and corn syrup for soda pop.
Rice and her "Thank a Farmer Magic Show" returned to the fair this year after a successful debut in 2017.
The show combines magic tricks and juggling to keep audiences entertained while Rice shares fun facts about agriculture and the importance of farmers and ranchers.
“Kids go to the store and buy stuff, but they don’t know where it comes from,” she told the audience.
Everything people eat, the clothes they wear and the homes that shelter them all come from farmers and ranchers. They need a lot of other people to help get what they grow to consumers, and that creates a lot of jobs — from truckers to scientists, she said.
“I believe the farmer is at the root of our economy,” she said.
In addition to milk, Rice made other things — such as sugar and knots in rope — disappear. But the audience needed to say the magic words, "Thank a Farmer," to seal the deal.
She employed agricultural products in her magic tricks and juggling while imparting facts about the props she was using to show just how prevalent farm goods are in everyday life.
First-time attendees to her show were surprised to learn paper money isn’t paper at all but made from cotton and flax.
They also didn’t know that all parts of a baseball come from agriculture. A baseball’s core is rubber stabilized by stearic acid and covered with cotton string, wool and leather. Another fun fact is that major league teams prefer cowhide from Holsteins.
They also wouldn’t be off base in telling their mothers they were “pretty as a pig” when they wear lipstick because the glycerin in lipstick comes from pigs, as well as cattle and sheep.
Everybody learns when they’re having fun, Rice said, and once they start learning, they want to learn more fun farm facts.
Rice grew up on a multi-generational farm in Iowa. She and her daughter, Rhonda Swanson, are longtime performers, and Rice is also a motivational speaker. They debuted "Thank a Farmer" in 2006.
“We started it to gain respect for farmers and keep farm kids from being bullied,” she said.
They thought an educational program about the importance of farming was needed to gain appreciation for farmers, whose contributions are often overlooked.
While all ages enjoy the show, it’s aimed at empowering children with knowledge and respect for farmers that they can share with their families.
Gerrard Rodriguez, 8, comes from a farming family.
“I learned to thank farmers since farmers do a lot for us. They grow stuff to make our clothes, we get (chewing) gum, corn for corn syrup and soda pops. Farmers do a lot of things for people,” he said.