By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
FORT HALL – Hundreds of fourth-graders from the Pocatello area received a hands-on learning experience about agriculture during Swore Farms’ annual Ag Days event.
The three-day event attracts about 1,500 fourth-graders and about 100 parents and teachers, who learn about agriculture through a variety of activities.
The Swore family provides the farm and the Bannock County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee helps organize the event and provides funding to make it happen, including providing the money necessary to support the buses that haul the kids to the farm.
“We are bringing kids that are usually not around agriculture and we are teaching them about where their food comes from,” said Stacy Burmester, the women’s committee chairwoman.
During this year’s event, a student asked Burmester, “Can you tell me what the difference between a pharmacist and a farmer is?”
“If we don’t teach them, who will?” she said. “We want to teach them accurate facts about agriculture because there are so many misconceptions out there.”
The event includes a series of activities and learning experiences hosted by FFA students, Idaho Fish and Game Department personnel and noxious weed and water experts.
It also includes a corn maze with questions about agriculture. If a student answers a question correctly, they continue and find another question. If they answer incorrectly, they find a dead end.
“We wanted to try to help get rid of some of the misconceptions about agriculture, so some of the questions in there challenge people’s misunderstandings,” said farm co-owner Wendy Swore.
Bannock County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee volunteers provide the students a crash course in farming which includes showing them how they can grow the ingredients for their own pizza. That activity ends with pizzas for each student.
A highlight of the event is when the students head to a real potato field and pick their own potatoes. They scoop up as much as they can carry in a plastic bag, and some even load spuds into their backpack and hood.
“Some of them get more potatoes than they can hardly carry,” Swore said. “They stagger back to the buses.”
She said she feels events like this are important “because the average person is four generations removed from the farm, so people have lost track of where their food comes from. We are trying to pull them back a little bit to the roots of farming.”
If people don’t have a basic understanding of how important farming is, then they won’t be informed enough to vote the correct way on issues that could impact agriculture, Swore added.
The event has been held annually for close to 20 years and theoretically, every student who has attended fourth-grade in the Pocatello-Chubbuck area during that time has attended the Ag Days event.
That means there are thousands of people living in the area who have at least a basic understanding of and appreciation for farming, Burmester said.
Farm co-owner Mike Swore said the mission of the Ag Days event is simple: “To educate them about where their food comes from and have fun.”
“We want to show them that real people grow their food and it comes from the dirt. The first step isn’t from the store,” said Swore, a data security officer for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
People who do not grow up around agriculture don’t understand the impact it has on people’s lives and the economy, said Sherril Tillotson, chairwoman of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s District 1 Women’s Leadership Committee.
“We have to tell our story,” she said.