Dakota Farmer

Ag literacy a priority

Youth-focused ag day exposes urban audiences to agriculture practices.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

May 15, 2024

3 Min Read
Children who attended the 2024 Morton County Ag Day interact with horses
ANIMAL LOVERS: Children who attended the 2024 Morton County Ag Day had the chance to pet and interact with horses, cattle, llamas, sheep and dairy cattle during the day. Photos by Sarah McNaughton

With farm and ranch families making up less than 2% of the U.S. population, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, ag literacy and education is more important than ever. The Morton County Farm Bureau has a vested interest, hosting its annual Ag Day to teach youth and adults about agriculture.

“It’s gauged toward kindergarten through third graders, but all are welcome,” says Sam Vangsness, a Morton County Farm Bureau member who volunteered for the event. “We see all kinds of age groups come through, which is really cool, with school buses coming from all over Morton and Burleigh County.”

A girl interact with sheep and their babies

With thousands of youths passing through the big white tent, Vangsness says Ag Day preparations start early.

“Our board starts in the beginning of the year, reaching out to commodity groups, and we have FFA kids who come throughout the day,” she explains. “There’s a lot of people that make this happen. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

Commodity groups including Midwest Dairy, the North Dakota Beef Commission, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and more all brought interactive and engaging exhibits filled with games and activities for the youth attending.

“You can just see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they get to see the horses and the cows,” Vangsness says. “Maybe they haven’t even seen one in person before today. That’s something that a lot of people may take for granted and reminds us of the opportunity we have to teach.”

baby chicks being petted

Even in an agriculture-focused community like Morton County, Vangsness says that the younger generation needs opportunities to learn about agriculture since many are removed from the farm.

“Grandma and grandpa aren’t on the farm anymore, or maybe their parents didn’t grow up on the farm,” she says. “We have an opportunity to teach that younger generation.”

Vangsness says that the biggest goal of the event and other county literacy work is to teach audiences about where their food comes from.

Children looking at a john deere tractor

“We want them to know where your milk and meat comes from, and even that fruits and vegetables don’t just come from the grocery store,” she explains. “It’s an easy concept for the kids to understand — it’s not just off the truck. The food is there from these hardworking agriculturalists within our state and around our nation.”

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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