More to Youth Ag Field Day program than meets the eye

Sunday, April 13, 2014
Riley Sutherlin, Putnam 4-H Junior Leader and South Putnam FFA member, discusses agricultural equipment with youth at agricultural field day. Behind the tractor was a liquid fertilizer applicator.

Living near a cornfield or driving by a few cows in the pasture does not necessarily make one knowledgeable about agriculture. The Putnam County Youth Ag Field Day last week provided opportunity for most of the county's third - or fourth-graders to experience livestock and grain up close and personally as one might find on a local farm.

Bainbridge third-graders and fourth graders from Central, Cloverdale, Fillmore, Tzouanakis and several home school groups participated. Groups traveled around the Putnam County Fairgrounds to 16 different stations where presenters had 12 minutes with each group to teach a particular agricultural topic.

Agriculture in Putnam County is serious business and has a storied history. The most recent National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data from the last agricultural census is somewhat dated from 2010. The economics of agriculture has significantly increased since and for Putnam County, 2010 total agricultural income was nearly $95 million while expenses were just over $76 million.

This makes up a significant portion of the Putnam County economy and as stated by one of the participating teachers is very relevant when meeting social studies and Indiana history standards.

The field day also increases youth awareness about agricultural careers in plant and animal sciences.

Dr. Joe Anderson, Purdue Agronomy Department head, stated earlier this year that the department could more than double its 150 plant science students and easily place these additional individuals.

The event served more than elementary grade youth participants in a learning opportunity as the youth in local FFA and 4-H Junior Leader programs planned and prepared as presenters to teach or lead three-quarters of the stations while other youth served as group guides.

A special lunchtime add-on this year featured David Greenburg and Bill Harshbarger with a sheep shearing demonstration.

These youth discovered there was more than corn and soybean fields in Putnam County as local and unique agricultural ventures in Putnam County were featured.

Eddy Lynn's Shrimp farm came and discussed its unique agricultural operation on the eastern side of the county while youth had the close hand look at fresh water prawn. Lacy Dooley from Parke County, a past Miss Indiana Honey Queen, discussed bees and honey production with youth.

Help and assistance of the many adult volunteers, like Tom Holton who provided pigs from Red Barn Farms and Gary Stevens who provided a dairy calf, are greatly appreciated.

One of the neatest observations of the day is to see 4-H and FFA members bringing animals to the fairgrounds and teaching stations. With so few having connections to agriculture and most being two or more generations from a farm, enabling youth to tell the story of agriculture is hugely important. Youth shared animal care and responsibility for their sheep, swine, beef, dairy, goat, poultry and rabbits.

Cloverdale FFA sponsored and presented a station for food science, a dairy foods station was sponsored and presented by North Putnam FFA students and longtime standby South Putnam FFA was spectacular with its aquaculture trailer station. These youth did a fabulous job presenting their topic and certainly learned valuable life skills from the presentation experience.

And the Ag Field Day would never be complete without that cold cup of chocolate milk and freshly popped corn from Putnam County Farm Bureau Inc.

There were 70 volunteers onsite to make the event a huge success. These volunteers were hungry by lunch time and special thanks goes to North Salem State Bank, Animal Medical Clinic, Cloverdale Agri-Center, and S&W Feed Center for sponsoring lunch for the presenters and other volunteers who make the day possible. Also the Putnam County Fairboard is a key sponsor for the event in providing the use of the facility.

Visit our homepage at or you can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Upcoming Events

April 16: Greencastle Farmers Market Home based Vendor program -- Putnam Extension office

April 17: Camp Counselor Applications Due for 4-H Camp

April 18: Extension Office closed, County Holiday

April 24: Canning and Food Preservation - Putnam County Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

April 24: Putnam 4-H Volunteer Development meeting, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

April 28: Fair Board meeting, Community Building 7:30 p.m.

April 29: Spring Dessert, Community Building 6:30 p.m.

May 6: Extension Office closed, Election Day

May 7: Small Fruit Workshop -- White Violet Center St Mary of the Woods College

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