By Donna Ferguson, Indiana Farm Service Agency
As the “Year of Dairy Cows” overtook the 250 acres of land on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, so did Indiana Farm Service Agency employees in providing outreach to fairgoers about agriculture and FSA’s programs.
More than 20 FSA employees (two retired and 21 current) provided their time, knowledge and talents to work at various agricultural and conservation exhibits during the 18-day fair.
“Outreach about agriculture and USDA is very important for our agency so I encouraged FSA employees to work at the fair,” said State Executive Director Julia A. Wickard. “The state fair attracts almost one million attendees and it is a great opportunity to tell the agricultural story to the non-farm public.”
The Indiana State Fair changed some venues this year, which didn’t allow FSA to have a permanent exhibit as in past years, so Wickard worked with the Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana Pork Producers, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Milk Promotion Services of Indiana and secured times for FSA employees to volunteer.
“Employees really enjoyed the time at the fair to share information about USDA, but to also talk about Indiana and American agriculture,” said Wickard.
As a member of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, FSA works closely with other conservation associates to staff the “Pathway to Water Quality” exhibit on the fairgrounds. The agency had day coordinators as well as shift workers to staff the conservation exhibit that demonstrates urban and rural conservation practices and featured a large educational area.
FSA also shared its time with the “Indiana Family of Farmers” and worked with Rural Development (RD) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in staffing a two-day exhibit that featured a “Thank the Farmer” display where fairgoers wrote notes to farmers about what they are thankful for.
More than 1,200 comments were submitted praising farmers for a job well done.
“Thank you for the food on my plate,” wrote one fairgoer, while another penned, “thank you for working long hours to feed my family,” and “thank you for producing crops that put fuel in my car.”
Wickard plans to use these notes throughout the year to communicate with farmers and make certain they are appropriately thanked for all they do to provide a safe and affordable food supply for the United States.