By Becca BurkenpasEBS STAFF
BELGRADE – The 15th annual Farm Fair, organized by the Gallatin Valley Agriculture Committee, was held at the Brainard Ranch April 7-9. From milking cows to pretending to be water molecules, the event was a farming- and science-based learning experience for everyone in attendance.
Twelve hundred fourth graders from various Gallatin Valley counties gathered for over three days to learn about the farm and the science behind support a commercial farming lifestyle.
According to an official invitation sent by Patti Soares, Farm Fair’s coordinator, the purpose of the event was to “provide a hands-on agriculture education program for fourth grade students, teachers, school administrators and community leaders.”
Students rotated between 16 educational stations featuring information on managing dairy cows, beef cows, pigs, goats, horses and sheep, as well as processes pertaining to wool production, farm safety, bee keeping, forestry, weed identification and wheat and potato production.
Said stations had students milking a cows and goats, increasingly rare tasks in the valley’s post-agricultural society, among other fun and informational activities.
Students weren’t the only ones learning at Farm Fair: Ranch Owner Ed Brainard said even after 15 years of hosting this event, he stills learns something new every year.
“I once learned that they grow purple potatoes. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen a purple potato,” Brainard said.
Farm Fair has grown significantly from its first year in 2004, when it started as a single day event with about 350 students in attendance. Today, the three-day event has increased in number four-fold—but that’s just about all that has changed over the past 15 years, aside from a few additional stations; Farm Fair still operates on a set of core principles.
“One of the things that made me a believer that this needed to continue was some of the presenters asked the kids at the water station where water comes from and they’d say, ‘the faucet or the refrigerator,’” Brainard said of the first Farm Fair. “Same way with milk: ‘oh, the grocery store or the refrigerator.’”
Educators often prepare well in advance of Farm Fair, using the information presented there as a springboard for classes preceding the event as well as for classes following it. Farm Fair therefore serves as a hands-on experience for students, cementing the lessons and learned concepts delivered by their teachers in the months, weeks and days before kickoff.
According to Brainard, Farm Fair’s impact is truly realized when students from previous batches return as presenters, passing on the experience to the next generation.
“Teaching other kids, well that’s a great community involvement,” he said.