The event is sponsored by the Great Bend (Kan.) Chamber Ag Committee and involves nearly 100 volunteers and months of planning. The dynamo behind Kid's Ag Day is Jerry Esfeld, a retired fourth-grade teacher who is passionate about sharing her appreciation for agriculture with youngsters.
"We are an ag community, but it is amazing how many of our children are clueless when it comes to farming. Still, it's the teachers who say, 'I didn't know that.' We want to spark that enthusiasm so it will be carried over into the classroom."
Some of this year's volunteers were once kids on wagons. "I participated in Kid's Ag Day 14 years ago and have been helping out the last three years," says farmer and seed sales rep Cale Batman. "They're learning what it takes to actually work in ag."
Michael Bahr, a crop consultant, precision ag advisor and farmer, has been working with the event for 22 years. Some of his employees were previous Kid's Ag Day attendees. He says there's value in providing a background in agriculture to children, no matter where their future careers take them. "More than 9,000 kids have gone through the program. Not all of them will come back to this community, but they'll take this information as they become leaders in other communities."
Ron Koelsch, a fourth-generation area farmer, former Great Bend Co-op board member and one of the program originators, says activities like Kid's Ag Day are key to maintaining expertise within the industry.
"Kids are losing connections with the family farm," say Koelsch. "Many jobs are involved with ag in some way and by stimulating kids' minds about agriculture, we may find the next generation of chemists and soil scientists and others to support family farms."
Great Bend Cooperative Association has long supported Kid's Ag Day and encourages employees to be volunteers, says Dennis Neeland, operations manager. It is one way to keep an increasingly diverse employee base linked with farmers' needs. "We try to teach our employees what the farmer is going through. Every day is a coaching opportunity."
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