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CHICAGO-AREA FARM BUREAU REACHES OUT TO CONSUMERS By Julie Ashton Today, one of the biggest challenges the dairy and agriculture industries is facing is consumer perception. A visit to Google to search for anything fact-based regarding agriculture results in pages of opinion-driven blogs and under-cover investigations. As producers, it is our responsibility to promote the positive aspect of the industry that we are so passionate for. Not 40 miles west of Chicago is a group who have taken this challenge personally. The Kane County Farm Bureau in St. Charles, IL, has hosted “Ag Days” for the past 30 years. The event focuses on reaching consumers at an early age, 4th grade to be exact. Volunteer efforts from the Women’s Committee has led to this being one of the most successful events hosted annually by the Farm Bureau. Over the 3-day event, nearly 2,000 students from the suburbs of Chicago attend the event annually, and teachers continue to sign up for the program because of its educational value. Held at the Mooseheart Fieldhouse, students hear short presentations on all aspects of the agriculture industry. The presentations are led by local farmer volunteers, some of which have been involved in “Ag Days” since its infancy. Beth Engel of Luck-E Holsteins, Hampshire, IL, is one of those volunteers. “The message of ‘Ag Day’s has changed over the years,” says Beth. “In the beginning, we talked about how to milk a cow and what they ate, now we focus more on animal welfare and the importance of dairy in a balanced diet.” And, this sentiment is seen throughout the whole event today. The overall message today is focused on how farmers are feeding the world and what they have to do to feeding a growing population. Yet, it can be difficult to present such an important message in just a 5-minute segment. “If each student only walks away with one new piece of information, I think ‘Ag Days’ has DBweekly 17 Julie Ashton | HolsteinWorld firstname.lastname@example.org the students listen and participate.” served it purpose,” said Beth. And today in agriculture, isn’t it the passion and The hope of the Farm Bureau is that those enthusiasm for our industry that is one of the 2,000 students each year, can take what biggest promoters of they’ve learned and talk agriculture? When to their schoolmates and consumers see first- families. Many of the hand our love for schools who attend “Ag the industry that Days” also participate we’ve dedicated our in the Illinois Ag in the whole lives to, they Classroom program, know the message also supported by the we are presenting Women’s Committee of Beth Engel presenting at the 2013 “Ag Days” is heartfelt and the Farm Bureau. Photo by Ryan Klassy, Kane County Farm Bureau honest. It is up to us With the combined to continually promote agriculture to our urban efforts of “Ag Days” and “Ag in the counterparts. Events like “Ag Days” and summer Classroom,” teachers are more in-tune with dairy breakfasts are popping up throughout the modern agriculture. They are able to ask the country, showing the significance that consumer important questions and then relay those answers back to their students. “The messages education has in our industry today. If you are involved in a promotional ag event, are getting out there better,” commented send your story to Julie Ashton, and it might be Beth. “The enthusiasm of teachers is also encouraging and makes a big difference in how featured in an upcoming issue!