sealPurdue News _____

February 1998

Farm Fest brings agriculture to urban neighbors

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Hamilton County, Ind., farmer realized he had a problem last year when a Mercedes driver claimed right-of-way on a small country road and unrealistically insisted that the farmer back up his tractor, a sprayer and tank of fertilizer and move out of the way.

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That roadside misunderstanding and countless others like it are why Indianapolis-area farmers and the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service developed Farm Fest, a free tour of agricultural operations that provides a way for the farming community to promote a better understanding of agriculture to its urban neighbors.

"It's a way to let people who live in the cities see a little bit of what agriculture is like and why that tractor needs to be out on the road," says Jim Nenni, 1997 Farm Fest co-chairman. "It gets very difficult explaining the wide diversity agriculture represents."

Farm Fest, which began in 1981, annually rotates among the seven counties surrounding Indianapolis and was hosted by Hamilton County in 1997. "The purpose is even more critical today than it was 17 years ago when Farm Fest started," says Bill Rice, agriculture and natural resources educator in the Hamilton County Extension Office.

More than 12,000 people visited the 1997 tour's five sites: a grain farm, swine farm, dairy farm, wholesale nursery and large-animal veterinary clinic. "We wanted to give a representation of traditional agriculture as well as the nontraditional," Rice says.

Each site provided a number of interactive activities with an emphasis on youngsters and young families. Children were able to rope a practice steer, lead a llama through an obstacle course, color with soy-based crayons, and feed and pet a variety of animals. Farm hosts explained their operations, assisted by volunteers who staffed numerous displays and demonstrations.

"People were impressed by the technology, especially at the grain farm, which uses both a lot of high-tech equipment and financial tools to maximize returns," Rice says. "A lot of people don't understand the sophistication of today's progressive farmer."

Most sites also had food available that was tied to production on the respective farms. For instance, the dairy farm served milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches, while pork sandwiches were available at the swine farm.

Despite running out of food and a couple of traffic jams attributed to the high turnout, Farm Fest evaluations, which were distributed at each site, were overwhelmingly positive. "Visitors rated the event as a great family activity, which was our target," Rice says. "Most people said they learned more about agriculture, and that agriculture was not necessarily what they thought it was."

Similarly, the event received high marks from the farm hosts. Although it was a tremendous amount of work, all agreed they would do it again. "They are proud of what they do and welcome the opportunity to explain it to someone who doesn't know about it," Nenni says.

Farm Fest also provided an opportunity to bring the entire community together. "It was a good experience for the visitors and the participants," Rice says. In addition, Farm Fest united more than 300 people throughout the community who planned and staffed the event. Local businesses and organizations also participated by providing financial support and other donations.

Farm Fest '98 will be held in Morgan County on Sept. 20.

Sources: Bill Rice, (317) 773-0854, e-mail,
Jim Nenni, (317) 773-1201
Writer: Olivia Maddox, (765) 496-3207; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

A young 1997 Farm Fest visitor enjoys the event as he goes eye-to-eye with one of the exhibits. (Photo provided by Farm Fest)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Rice/Farmfest
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