Fairs and Festivals – great places to promote agriculture

County fairs and local festivals provide a great venue for promoting agriculture to consumers. With advance planning you can provide exhibits which tell consumers about agriculture and expand on it as other volunteers decide to join in to help.

With only 1.8 percent of the population providing food for the other 98 percent, there is a huge opportunity to provide information and education about agriculture and food production. Most fairs and festivals draw a large audience who are not familiar with where their food comes from and the variety of food grown and processed in Michigan. This article is the first of three in a series of how to provide agriculture education at fairs and festivals and will focus on planning and what to do before the event takes place.

  1. Begin by contacting the event organizers and inquiring if they would like agriculture education activities. Have a possible list ready so you can discuss what will best fit into their venue. This could range from providing an agricultural education tent or area to being able to put up posters or signage around the grounds or event to having a designated time and place to do agriculture education. 
  2. Do some research on what human and financial resources you will have available. This would include checking with the fair exhibitors or other groups such as 4-H clubs and FFA chapters who may already be doing some educational activities, the county Farm Bureau, Michigan State University Extension and agricultural commodity groups. Discuss with the fair or festival what might be needed and who will provide the space. Know who will purchase or supply the materials or equipment needed. If you are able to provide activities or exhibits in addition to signage, you will want to recruit volunteers to assist with the activities throughout the event. Farmers, local Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Committee members, Extension staff, 4-H and FFA members and families, and fair exhibitors are often willing to assist.
  3.  There are many resources available for you to review and choose what types of activities you would like to do at the event. At Michigan Farm Bureau - Michigan's Voice of Agriculture you will find many ideas and activities that have been done around the state. There are also samples of ready to print signage and other ideas of educational events which have been done at fairs and festivals at MSU Breakfast on the Farm Agriculture Literacy Resources.
  4.  When you have a list of potential activities and if you are working with other groups, organize a meeting to discuss the activities and assign responsibilities. Depending on the size of your agriculture education activity you may want to form a committee to help organize the effort.
  5.  If you will be developing or printing signage allow enough time for the signs to be ready for the event. Signage or exhibits can focus on all aspects of animal and crop production and should contain key messages. With today’s technology, videos and pictures can be used to take the public on a virtual tour of a farm or through the phases of safe food production. The public is interested in learning about the production cycle, how farmers take care of their animals, how they protect the environment and how they make sure the food they produce is safe and nutritious to eat. People are often surprised to learn about the by-products from animals as well as the many uses of crops. The more visual and/or interactive an exhibit can be the better.

Groups can have fun working together on posters, tabletop displays, demonstrations, videos, building a model or developing a game or scavenger hunt to showcase their agriculture messages. Watch for the next article in this series which will provide details on some examples of successful activities.

Anyone involved in agriculture at any level agrees that it is important to educate others about agriculture. For more information and ideas, visit the Breakfast on the Farm agricultural literacy resources page or contact me, MSU Extension agriculture literacy educator, at thelenn@anr.msu.edu.

Other articles in this series:

Fairs and Festivals – great places to promote agriculture in expanded ways 

Fairs and Festivals – great places to promote agriculture and utilize many resources

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