By Bill Schaefer
For Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
IDAHO FALLS – More than 2,000 people attended the 3rd Annual Idaho Agfest, an event designed to thank farm and ranch employees for their hard work.
According to Idaho Department of Labor statistics, more than 50,000 agricultural workers help Idaho farmers and ranchers manage, plant, cultivate and harvest their crops and livestock.
Three years ago, a group of eastern Idaho farm families created Idaho Agfest as a way to thank those workers and their families.
Carl Taylor, of Taylor and Sons Farms, said he and his wife, Linda, had wanted to find some way to show their gratitude for all the hard work their agricultural workers put in during the growing season.
“We decided to start this Agfest (and) we’ve got several other growers who feel the same way to help sponsor it,” Carl Taylor said.
Phil Simpson, CEO of Taylor and Sons Farms, said Carl and Linda came to him four years ago with this vision of Agfest.
“We started a non-profit,” Simpson said. “Every penny that’s donated goes to Agfest. There are no paid employees.”
More than 30 local businesses, including farms, ag and fertilizer suppliers, ag irrigation companies, banks and transportation companies contributed to this year’s event.
“It’s financed by those who deal in agriculture and I’ve never been turned down,” Carl Taylor said.
This year’s Agfest was held at the Pinecrest Event Center in Idaho Falls Oct. 20 from noon to 5 p.m. Families were given free admission with proof of agricultural employment in the form of a pay stub or worker ID. Free food and entertainment along with a petting zoo and children’s playground were among the attractions in the center.
About 30 booths representing a variety of social services as well as the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University, the Community Council of Idaho, the Mexican consulate and the Bingham County library, offered their services.
“We have a large Hispanic community that’s involved in agriculture so a lot of our services are centered around the needs of the Hispanic community,” Carl Taylor said.
Linda Taylor said Idaho Agfest has grown and expanded with more booths and sponsors in its three years.
“It was a huge success,” she said about this year’s event. “It turned out exactly as we envisioned.”
She estimated between 2,000 and 2,500 people came to this year’s Agfest.
“I think it’s great. This is what the whole area is about,” said David Bingham of Rigby, a regulatory manager for Necternal, a soil amendment company, as he and his family were waiting in line at the taco bar.
Four $1,000 scholarships were awarded this year to children of agricultural workers.
Jessica Benitez, a Skyline High School graduate, Mariela Guadarrama, an Idaho Falls H.S. graduate, Tanisha Coffey, a Blackfoot H.S. graduate, and Giselle Varela, a Bonneville H.S. graduate, were each presented with a trophy and $1,000.
The Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Truck was parked outside the Pinecrest Event Center where the truck’s driver, Ron Coles, took photos of people posed in front of the giant replica of a Russet Burbank potato.
Travis Blacker, IPC industry relations director, said the commission brought the truck to Agfest to thank all ag workers for their hard work in bringing in Idaho’s 2018 potato crop.
“There’s no way we could get 13 billion pounds of potatoes out of the ground without all these ag workers,” Blacker said. “We’re glad to be a part of it.”
The recognition of Idaho’s farm workers on the east side of the state inspired Genoveva Winkler and the Community Council of Idaho to renew a similar event on the west side of the state to recognize ag workers in the Treasure Valley.
The inaugural AgroFiesta took place Oct. 21 in Caldwell at the O’Connor Field House.
Winkler worked at Idaho Agfest last year and decided to begin AgroFiesta when she moved to Caldwell.
“We know the struggles (these workers) have, so we decided to do something for them,” she said.
Winkler said AgroFiesta is a good opportunity to introduce farm workers and their families to various social and educational services available to them in the Treasure Valley.
Irma Morin, CEO of CCI, said the council has a large array of services specific to the farm worker community.
“We have to recognize those individuals that work extremely hard as farm workers,” Morin said. They do “some of the most difficult jobs in our communities, at the lowest pay. We owe this tribute to those families that continue to work in agriculture.”