Carroll County farm animals, up close and personal Agri-Fest for children held at Ag Center


Jostling each other out of the way, Heather Shulman's third-graders eagerly nudged forward for a look at the white box's glass panel.

It wasn't the latest Nintendo game that had these Mount Airy Elementary students glued to the glass, but chickens hatching in an incubator.

"Oh, isn't he cute? He's so fluffy," they cried as Holly Fleming let them pet a 2-day-old chick at Thursday's Agri-Fest at the Carroll County Agricultural Center.

The display, which showed children a chicken's life from egg to full-grown hen, was one of 10 at the festival.

Students from Mount Airy, Taneytown, Hampstead and Mechanicsville elementaries spent half a day at the Westminster event, the first in Carroll County.

"I'm impressed with the number of parents that came along," said Carroll County Farm Bureau secretary Sharon Fritz, noting that each group of 15 kids had two or three parents chaperoning.

Organizers had expected only teachers to accompany the children, she said.

"It's very nice to have the parents come along, because we can educate them, too. It's gratifying that there are this many parents who are interested in what we are offering," she said.

The festival, sponsored by the Carroll County Farm Bureau's Women's Committee, was designed to give local children an appreciation of farm life and agricultural practices.

Committee members plan to sponsor five more Carroll County elementary schools next spring and an additional group of four or five schools next fall.

Teachers at 15 of the 19 Carroll County elementary schools told Farm Bureau members they'd like to participate in the program, Ms. Fritz said.

"The big thing is to let them know that agriculture is viable in this county," she said.

Farming and agriculture-related businesses -- from fertilizer sales grocery stores -- bring thousands of dollars to Carroll County each year, she said.

"We hope when [students] leave here they will have an idea about how it all comes together and works together," Ms. Fritz said. "We need them to buy our products, but they need us to produce them, too."

At each of the stations -- from swine and dairy cattle to produce and farm machinery -- volunteers showed the children how many everyday items can be traced to agriculture.

County maps at each station showed where all the farms of a certain type are located.

"Oh my gosh," children exclaimed as they realized items as diverse as plastic wrap, deodorant, chewing gum and film all use ingredients derived from beef cattle.

"What would we do if the lights went out?" one of boys asked as his classmates pulled a candle from a bag of items obtained from cattle.

Paint, paint brushes, Jell-O, soaps and the obvious leather balls, shoes and baseball gloves rounded out the presentation.

"How do all of those things come from cows?" a young girl asked Anne Harrison in disbelief.

"From the part that's left over when we make steak and beef," Ms. Harrison replied. "Parts that are left are used to make these things."

Despite Carroll County's rural nature, many students are not aware of the agricultural industry around them, Ms. Shulman said.

"We've found that a lot of the kids are suburban transplants from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas," she said. "They have never touched a farm animal or seen one this close."

For her classes, the visit fits very well with the agricultural unit the students study in social sciences, Ms. Shulman said.

"It's one thing to hear about [agriculture] or see it in books and posters," she said, "but here, they can actually see things up close and touch them."

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