The Polk County Youth Fair wrapped up its latest annual ag event at the end of January. Youth from all over the county had the opportunity to show off the fruits of their labors, representing weeks and months of hard work. From dog showmanship and archery to showing hand-raised livestock and displaying horse handling skills, there’s something for everyone. However, taking home ribbons is just part of the attraction of such ag events; the Polk County Youth Fair, or PCYF, is about so much more than winning.
Teaching the Next Ag Generation
The average age of the U.S. farmer is 58.3, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the USDA, and a whole slew of young people are needed to step into the boots of retiring farmers to continue to produce the food and ag products needed. Agriculture shows such as the PCYF introduce kids to the ins and outs of raising and growing animals and produce in a business setting. Participants have to keep records, deal with buyers, create budgets for feed and the like as well as actually tend to the animals.
Introducing Ag to Suburbs and Cities
It’s true that agricultural endeavors usually go on in rural settings, but that paradigm is changing for a number of factors. One of those factors is events like the PCYF as it offers opportunities for kids living in places other than the country. It doesn’t require large amounts of acreage to raise a chicken or a rabbit, to show a dog or to complete many of the other events. Getting kids interested in agriculture—especially those who might not have been exposed to the industry otherwise—is a valuable way to increase the number of individuals who will choose agriculture as a career in the future.
In agriculture there are value-added products, where standard products can be changed or manipulated to make them more valuable, such as making cheese from milk or cider from apples. Ag events such as the PCYF have value-added factors to impart as well. In addition to the above, such events also build confidence in kids, teach life lessons and help our youth to develop adept social skills.
In short, ag events like the Polk County Youth Fair offer the challenges and practice opportunities needed to build the youth who will be our leaders of the ag industry of the future.