Learning opportunities at Kossuth County Fair
ALGONA — What do ducks eat? How are cows milked? How big will a grown llama get?
All of those answers and more can be found by visiting the Kossuth County Fair.
One of the more popular places to visit during the fair is the Algona FFA Children’s Barn and Ag Learning Center.
Both the Children’s Barn and Ag Learning Center are manned by members of the Algona FFA chapter.
Betsy Becker, chapter advisor, said the members take turns throughout the fair at each building and not only do they care for the animals’ basic needs such as feed and water, they are on hand to visit with fairgoers.
“This is the only opportunity some have to get in touch with agriculture,” said Becker. “Our FFA members are the future spokespeople for agriculture. This gives them the chance to tell ag’s story and gives people that don’t live on a farm to see the production side of things.”
While visiting the Children’s Barn, guests have the chance to try milking a cow on a dairy cow simulator, see ducks, chickens, rabbits, chinchillas, llamas, goats, a bottle calf and miniature ponies.
“We let the kids look at the animals and if they have any questions, we answer them and try to teach them,” said Algona FFA member and volunteer Lilly Vaske. “We make sure the kids are having a good time.”
Across the fairgrounds at the Ag Learning Center, visitors get a little different experience.
The Ag Learning Center, not only lets visitors get a glimpse of a cow with her calf; a mare with her filly and baby ducks, they may get a chance to see a live birth – whether that be a chicken hatching or a sow birthing her piglets.
“We had 23 baby pigs born last night,” said Becker. “It gives people a chance to see that and get a better understanding. We can tell the story of why animals are housed the way they are that it is for the safety for the mother and her young.”
Even some of the FFA students had their own learning experience.
“Students sleeved up and had the opportunity to pull a baby pig,” said Becker. “We walked them through the process and just seeing their eyes light up when the pigs came out, it was amazing.”
Becker said she is proud of her students and FFA members for stepping up and volunteering during the fair.
“These kids are some of the best kids around,” she said. “They have good leadership skills, communication skills and people skills. This also gives them the opportunity to give back. They were five, six years old and this was their favorite thing to do.”
And Vaske is no exception as she also grew up visiting the Children’s Barn and Ag Learning Center. Those experiences led to her wanting to be a volunteer.
“I always liked seeing the animals,” she said. “I liked milking the cow and taking pictures. It was always a fun thing to do.”
Becker is thankful the community comes in to visit both the Children’s Barn and Ag Learning Center.
“Sometimes agriculture gets a black eye. Maybe they don’t know the truth. It gives them the opportunity to learn and see firsthand how animals are taken care of,” she said. “This is what it takes to tell the story of agriculture today.”