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At Ag Day at the Pavilion in Sioux Falls, S.D., kids see what is on the menu for cattle at feeding time. Michelle Rook / Special to Forum News Service

SD agriculture showcased at Ag Day at the Pavilion

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Most consumers are several generations from the farm but at the annual Ag Day at the Pavilion in Sioux Falls on March 17, they learned all about the state's top industry. More than 2,500 Sioux Falls-area consumers participated in hands-on educational activities about agriculture and food production.

"They're learning that I don't just get my food in the freezer aisle or in the produce section. There's a lot of people involved to make this happen," says Kaia Hedrick, special events coordinator for the Washington Pavilion.

Amanda Eben was back as a volunteer in the South Dakota Soybean Hungry for Truth booth, because she loves the opportunity to interact with future consumers.

"Not very often do we get the opportunity to sit down with kids and teach them about agriculture and furthermore teach them about food and how its grown," she says.

Eben says it's also important for future consumers and their parents to meet the people that produce their food and learn what farmers do on the farm and the production techniques they use.

"A lot of these kids are three generations removed from the farm at best. What that means is that they don't get a lot of interaction on a farm or with farmers in general," Eben says.

Eben believes you can never start too early shaping consumer perceptions about food.

"For us to actually sit down and talk to them and educate them on where that comes from — that conversation probably can't be started too early," she says.

Deron Ruesch is a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and says his booth taught students about the importance of soil health in farming and food production.

"We're teaching the kids we have six inches of topsoil and that's what supports life," he says. "It doesn't matter if you're urban or if you're rural ... you can do something to improve your soil health."

Participants also got to see various live farm animals, including baby chicks, pigs, calves and sheep. Rebekah Ihnen with the South Dakota Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Team says it's fun for her to watch some of the kids at their booth because it may be the first time they've ever been able to interact with any livestock.

"We had baby lambs in our booth and so they're able to feel them and ask questions," Ihnen says. "We also have byproducts that they again can feel and touch."

Ihnen says it's a great way for them to see how farmers care for their animals.

Farm Bureau had a second display area where kids could decorate a lamb ear tag to put on their backpack or use as a key chain.

"We just allow them to decorate them however they want ... put a brand on it to help them connect to what we do on a ranch," Ihnen says.

And the kids love learning where their food comes from. Lily Kamnikar from Sioux Falls brought several of her friends to Ag Day because she had so much fun last year learning new things about agriculture.

"It helps me learn more about farms and a lot of the things that I don't know before," she says.

Kamnikar also appreciates the role farmers play in producing food for her family.

"A lot of the foods come from the farm and without them we wouldn't have the things that we do. It would be very different," she says.

Jenna Mooney of Sioux Falls has also participated in the Ag Day event in the past and says she enjoys finding out about the livestock farmers raise on their farms.

"It is so fun here. I'm learning a lot about what cows eat, like grass. It's interesting how you get food from animals." she says.

Ag Day at the Pavilion is also an opportunity for Sioux Falls area consumers to see how farmers and different agriculture companies drive the economy in the city and throughout the state. "Agriculture brings billions of dollars to our state and is super important to our economy. Those of us in the city don't always realize that," Hedrick says.