The past few weeks have been county fair time for communities across the U.S. This includes small towns and bigger cities like Kansas City. Platte County, Missouri, where I live, is made up in part by Kansas City's outer limits in the southern corner. The northern part is made up of rolling hills where most of the state's burley tobacco crop is grown, and is dominated by pastures – mostly with horses.
According to the Platte County Fair's website, early settlers in Platte County came to the region in the mid-1800s, bringing their expertise of purebred horses and a 150-year tradition with them from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. In recent years, the amount of youth showing swine and cattle has declined and there are no longer swine and cattle shows. However, with the fair's horse heritage, horse shows are still a popular attraction.
Fair educates youth on various aspects of production agriculture
The fair draws a steady mix of both urban and rural residents, including urban youth and 4-Hers in the area who, even without livestock shows, have the opportunity to learn about agriculture. This came as a surprise to me when I attended my first Platte County Fair last week, where I saw the Commodity Carnival exhibit by 4-H and CME Group at the fair's 150th anniversary. The program was authored by Ohio 4-H with the support of the National 4-H Council.
With this activity, youth start with a pink plastic egg to represent a pig. They then look at all the different costs that go into producing a pig – feed costs, facilities, wages, and transportation. All of this goes into the "pig," and it gets weighed on a scale to figure whether it meets the break even weight.
Then, the "pig" goes into the "Pig-Linko" board, modeled after the well-known "The Price Is Right" game. Here, youth see how different factors – disease, weather, market, affect the final price of the hog (where it lands), and whether they made or lost money. They also learn how to take uncertainty in the market out of the equation by using a futures contract to agree on a price in advance. Overall, they see how the economics side connects with the production side of agriculture.