Friday, March 26, 2010

Agricultural diversity for $200, Alex...

On Monday morning, I woke up at the shriek of dawn, did all the things a person does to get ready for the day, hopped into my car and zipped on down to the CCEDC (that's short for Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County) in Millbrook for the 14th Annual National Agriculture Day Breakfast. I had never been to this amazing event before, which is co-sponsored by the CCEDC, the Dutchess County Dairy Committee Inc., Dutchess County Soil & Water Conservation District, Dutchess-Putnam-Westchester Bureau, and Dutchess County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Bureau.

Now, I bet most of you reading this had no idea that there are so many ag/farm/dairy groups in the Hudson Valley (there are more, actually, but these are mostly the ones on the East side of the Hudson..).

I also bet you don't know that less then 2% of the our population lives or works on farms. That's what makes it so important, as the earth's population grows, for our children and us as consumers to learn about agriculture.

Well, you do now. And those in the room -- farmers, County legislators, CCEDC personnel, CCEDC volunteers and lots of other folk who play a significant role in the local agricultural community -- knew all too well that the health of our farms, our food supply and indeed, the planet depends on that knowledge.

There were speeches, awards (Model tractors, really!), lots of clapping and giving people their well-deserved due (this was, after all, an annual meeting). And there was the most awesome breakfast spread, from eggs to bacon to sausage and home fries, french toast and maple syrup...delicious, gotta say!

And then, Sandra Prokop,the Managing Director of the New York Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education, Inc. (we love short titles in our business -- er, like Hudson Valley 40th Anniversary Earth Day Celebration...) got up and gave a great talk about education and agriculture, and how important it is for students to learn about and connect with the land--with farming, which is where our food comes from.

She mentioned that one of the most effective tools the Foundation has found to engage children in learning about farming and agriculture is a Jeopardy (You know...Jeopardy the game show on TV...? With Alex Trebec? "The question is...") game, where all the categories have to do with -- you guessed it, agriculture and farming. This game (kids can't get enough of it, says Prokop...)is now on a computer, built into a special kiosk, that venues like the Dutchess County Fairgrounds can borrow for their events. As soon as she told the audience, I was already mentally raising my hand, yelling in my mind, "Pick me! Pick me!"

After the breakfast was over and the room was emptying, I made a bee line for Ms. Prokop -- who is herself a farmer, btw -- and told her about the Earth Day Celebration, and how we want to inspire kids to learn and care about the planet, and farming and all things related to sustainable stewardship of the earth. She said she had to check the availability of the unit (it's a celebrity among fairs and conferences and has a very busy schedule...) and would get back to me in a couple of days. I tapped my foot, waiting and hoping to get good news, and....(drum roll, please)...Yesss!!! The agricultural Jeopardy game kiosk will be guessed it...the HV40thEarthDayCelebration.

I don't know about you, but I'm psyched! Your children are going to love this thing. The kiosk has a computer with a touch screen, and lots of great facts for kids (and adults) to learn. It's interactive, it's fun, and the only place it will be in New York State on Earth Week weekend is at our event.

So, get your buzzer finger ready. And remember, the answer has to be in the form of a question. Here's mine: Can you have TOO MUCH FUN at the Hudson Valley 40th Anniversary Earth Day Celebration, Alex? No, Virginia, you cannot.

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