SALEM, Ore. — A record–breaking crowd attended the 30th annual Ag Fest April 29-30 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

Tami Kerr, executive director of Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and 2017 Ag Fest chair, was enthusiastic about the record-breaking results of this year’s event.

“It was a record-breaking year in every way,” Kerr said. “The trade show filled faster this year than ever before, we had more local food producers selling cheese, salsa, pies and meat ... new cooking demonstrations from Bob’s Red Mill and there were more hands-on experiences than ever in both Ag Country and the animal barns.”

When she first joined the board 17 years ago, the even drew 7,000 and 8,000 attendees.

“This year,” Kerr said, “we nearly hit 22,000 — 21,964 to be exact. No other state that I know of has a premier agriculture education event that matches this one, and it is a thrill to see entire families learning together about where their food comes from.”

Part of the event was the presentation of the Oregon Ag Fest Agricultural Education Awards. Top award winners were members of the Echo, Ore., FFA, the Henley FFA near Klamath Falls and the Oregon Dairy Women.

To extend their mission beyond the annual two-day event, Ag Fest organizers decided to award student organizations, nonprofit groups and others who promote agriculture and educate Oregonians about it.

Echo FFA members — Echo is a small town 8 miles south of Hermiston in Eastern Oregon — took home the first place prize of $1,000 for their 2,333 “agricultural learning moments” they advocated between January 2016 and March 2017.

Those projects included presenting Ag in the Classroom lessons to elementary classrooms in the Echo School District, hosting a petting zoo for elementary- through high school-age students, teaching a lesson at Rocky Heights Elementary School in Hermiston and taking part in work stations at the Eastern Oregon Agriculture Field Day at the Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Center in Boardman.

The 10 Echo FFA members who attended Ag Fest to accept their award also spent the morning assisting with pedal tractor races, parking cars and the Ag Challenge scavenger hunt.

Henley FFA took home the second place prize of $600 for working with the local Klamath Falls Farm Expo, hosting an Ag Field Day for students at a local elementary school, participating in the Oregon Ag in the Classroom Spring Literacy Project, as well as other community service efforts that included working with PLAY — Promoting Lifelong Activities for Youth — and the Klamath County Forestry Tour.

Accepting the $400 prize for third place was 2017 State Dairy Princess Ambassador Kiara Single and Jessica Kliewer, state director of the Dairy Princess Ambassador Program for the Oregon Dairy Women. Since 1959, the volunteer organization has been telling dairy’s story to the public through the princess ambassador program and other efforts.

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