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Bridging the gap between farm and fork

Submitted Photo The purpose of the Ag Education Center at the Red River Valley Fair is to teach kids and adults where their food comes from. In this undated photo, a child feeds a dairy calf at the center.

FARGO — Those in the ag industry say it’s scary how much of a disconnect there is between consumers and farmers.

“You have people saying they don’t need a farmer because they can go to the grocery store,” said Bill Hoffmann, a member of the Red River Valley Fair board. “That’s really scary.”

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The fair board and staff hope the Ag Education Center at the Red River Valley Fair from Tuesday through July 13 will help bridge some of that gap.

The center is a popular exhibit that showcases various agricultural displays, all designed to help kids and adults understand a bit more about farming and where their food comes from before it reaches grocery store shelves.

Displays will include hatching baby chicks, livestock, meat coolers with various cuts of beef, pork, turkey and chicken, and a fiberglass cow kids can try milking.

A dairy display will also teach people what products come from cows’ milk. And the Thank a Farmer Magic Show is ag-related.

“It’s a fun place,” Hoffmann said. “You can spend a lot of time there.”

The Midwest Dairy Association will have displays about dairy farming, the importance of cow comfort and care, as well as the benefits of consuming dairy.

Susan Hintz of Flasher, the state Dairy Princess, will be there for a couple of days, and dairy experts will be on hand to answer questions.

“It’s vitally important to make sure that people understand where their food is coming from. This education display helps give consumers the confidence to know what they’re eating is produced in the safest manner and is also very nutritious,” said Char Heer, the Midwest Dairy Association’s program manager.

Even in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Jodi Buresh, the fair’s assistant general manager, said there’s a disconnect between farm and table. She said during one fair there was a garden of vegetables and a child asked his mother what one of the plants was. It was a carrot, but Buresh said the child’s mother couldn’t identify it by its leaves.

Some people think milk is mixed from a powder in the grocery store, said Katelyn Blackwelder, a fair intern who grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm.

“Even though we’re an agriculture state, Fargo is more of a metropolitan fair,” Buresh said. “It used to be people were one or two generations away from the farm, but it’s getting worse.”

The Ag Education Center started in 2008 and is presented by the Cass County Farm Bureau. Buresh said it’s probably the fair’s busiest building attraction. An estimated 18,000 people went through the center last year, she said.

If you go:

What: Ag Education Center

Presented by: Cass County Farm Bureau

Where: Red River Valley Fair

When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through July 13


Info: Free with gate admission, which is $8 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6 to 11, and free for kids 5 and under. Gate admission is free from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Tracy Frank

Tracy Frank is a SheSays, Variety, and Farmer's Forum reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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