Times have changed. Kids of the ‘90s may be more mystified by where potatoes come from than where babies do.
“When fairs originated, 80 percent of the country was in agriculture. Now that number is just 2 percent,” said Barb Renner, manager of the Kootenai County Fair. “The fair needs to educate people. Where do the things we use today come from?”
This year, the fair has a new agricultural education department to answer some of those questions.
At a tent on the main part of the fairgrounds, you can find some facet of agriculture explained every hour between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.
Watch potatoes dug from the soil of a working garden. Wonder what it’s like to milk a cow? Stop by in the evening for a hands-on experience. Children can find out where butter comes from by shaking cream in a jar.
Seeds and grains are displayed in bins, so you can not only learn about the byproducts of corn, oats, peas or wheat - you can pick up a handful.
“We’re putting together demonstrations about how to dye and spin wool. There will be food preservation demonstrations. You can see draft horses harnessed and shod. We’re also hitting on the timber industry - a real part of agriculture for this part of the country,” said Treva Norris, agricultural education coordinator.
Though North Idaho beef breeders are too few and far between to support a large show, several different breeds of cattle will be featured and judged, with children exhibiting them.
“We’ll also explain why cattle are important to industry for more than just eating,” said Norris.
When is a cow not a cow?
Part of their horns and hooves winds up in tires, Norris said. Cattle produce tallow for soap, lanolin for cosmetics, leather for shoes and other byproducts.
All of the demonstrations will be done by local people, not videos, so you can ask questions.
“It’s important for people to know where their food comes from,” said Norris. “Also … it’s a fair thing. At the fair, you expect to learn something new.”