See new ag exhibits at state fair

Four new agricultural additions have been made to the Iowa State Fair for 2012. While most of them are centered on fairgoers, one of them is something fair CEO and manager Gary Slater hopes will help prepare 4-H and FFA members for future careers: a livestock judging contest. Such contests usually take place at the county fair level.

Key Points

Four new agricultural additions will be introduced at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.

Exhibits include attractions targeted at fairgoers and energy-saving technology.

There will be a livestock judging contest, an event usually held at county fairs.


Slater, who used to participate in these contests himself, says the pressure contestants go through when justifying their decisions can be applied to job interviews or any public-speaking scenario. “It helps shape your character,” he says. “You draw back on those times.”

Although this addition will be more contestant-based, Slater says it’s similar to other attractions in educating people on potential careers in agriculture. “I’m a big fan of that kind of education,” he adds. “I think it’s a great addition.”

Agriculture and discovery

Also new to the fair this year is the AgVenture Discovery Trail, made possible by the Iowa Soybean Association, the Ag-Urban Initiative and USDA.

This exhibit will have 10 ag commodity-based stops, including green and environmental commodities like solar energy and wind turbines, which Slater hopes will introduce fairgoers to the benefits of green technology. “What we’re doing here can dovetail right into that,” he says, adding that the wind turbine on the fairgrounds is one of the biggest contributors. “A million people see it every year.”

The band shell on Expo Hill is equipped with energy-saving solar panels. The band shell and solar-energy feature of the AgVenture Discovery Trail are timely additions, as Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill supporting solar-energy initiatives in May. “Any entertainment we have underneath that band shell will be powered by the solar collector,” notes Slater.

For those interested in marine-based agriculture, an aquaculture exhibit has been added to the animal learning center. It includes two tanks and signs with information on hatcheries and seafood products like tilapia or shrimp, as well as hydroponic vegetables — vegetables grown in water without the use of soil. Southeast Polk FFA will help with this exhibit.

“Aquaculture is very popular with 4-H and FFA,” says Emily Brewer, the fair’s agricultural education coordinator.

The 2012 fair also will feature the Seed Survivor program for the first time. Founded by Agrium, Seed Survivor has a technology-based emphasis on plants, their necessities in agriculture and our dependence on them. The program is one of three in the nation and uses virtual reality and multimedia applications to teach elementary school students on these topics.

“We’re excited about it,” Brewer says. “It’s very, very cool.”

Other new attractions

Non-ag additions include a 150-foot-long, 30-foot-tall zip line west of the Jacobson Exhibition Center, elevators in the Cultural Center, a new parking lot and west entrance to the 4-H building, and a new ride on the midway. The Space Roller is a spinning ride with horizontal flips at up to 70 feet in the air.

For younger children, beef and swine barns are being added to the Little Hands on the Farm area, as well as a small tractor. “They’ll be able to pull a small round bale up to the beef barn,” Slater says.

Another addition to the livestock exhibits is Sheep Stop, which will now accompany Cattle Corner, Horse Haven and Pig Place. Like the other exhibits, Sheep Stop will offer facts such as the number of producers and sheep in Iowa, as well as the amount of wool produced, with the help of the Iowa Sheep Industry Council.

“One of the neat things in the Cattle Corner is how much food a dairy cow eats in a day,” Slater says, explaining that these facts are often depicted physically and allow parents to explain the numbers to their children. “The facts are written there, but the parents become the teacher.”

Harris is a Wallaces Farmer intern.

More livestock improvements

Since the late 1990s, the livestock buildings and contests at the Iowa State Fair have had several additions, including new roofs for the cattle, horse and swine barns; an addition to the cattle barn; a stalling barn next to the swine barn; and the Jacobson Building, which allows all of the horse breeds to compete during the fair.

Several new livestock breeds have also been introduced over the years, including the reintroduction of Chester Whites in this year’s swine contest. “They’ll be kind of a renewed spirit,” says fair manager Gary Slater.

You can also see lesser-known breeds of cattle, like mini-Herefords, which were introduced two years ago. “We have a lot of different breeds at our fair that maybe other fairs don’t have,” Slater says, noting Belgian Blues as an example.


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ON EXPO HILL: Gary Slater, manager of the Iowa State Fair, stands on top of Expo Hill, where solar and wind energy will provide green power to specific venues such as the new band shell. The 2012 Iowa State Fair is Aug. 9-19 at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines.

This article published in the July, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.