Monday, May 23, 2016

Tips to Host a Farm Field Day


Here in Blount County, the Blount County Young Farmers, along with help from the county Women's Committee, and FFA, host an annual event called Kid's Day on the Farm. We've been doing this so long, I guess you could call us "experts." We've had a lot of trial and error to get to what the event is today. I thought I would offer some pointers to anyone who may be looking to start an event like this in their area.

  • First, decided who you're going to work with. Are you going to host this by yourself? Partner with another group? Sponsors?
  • Where is the event going to be held? Is there a local farm with the capacity to host a field day? We use our county agribusiness center, which works well because it is a big building, has ample parking, and also has bathrooms.
  • Who will come to this event? An entire school? The public? The amount of people you invite will depend on the space you have, the amount of money you have to work with, and time restraints. We invite every 2nd grader in our county.

  • One thing we do that the kids look forward to each year is they each receive a free t shirt. This is actually where most of our work comes in. We order almost 900 shirts for students, teachers, workers, sponsors, and exhibitors. We shop around for the best price and gather enough sponsors to cover the entire cost. We start this process 3 months in advance of the event. We have a list of sponsors that we ask every year. If any of those turn us down, we have a backup list.

  • Another thing we start 3 months in advance is contacting the exhibitors. What do you want at the event? Animals? Tractors? Demonstrations? Crops? We have a big variety at our farm day. We get livestock panels donated from the local coop, so we have pens to put a few different colors of cows/calves and a variety of other animals such as a donkey, mini horse, percheron, etc. Don't get caught up in just getting animals there though. Here is a list of our exhibits from this year, to give you some ideas:

  • Mini Horse, Mule, Percheron, Donkey, Jersey, Longhorn, Pigs, Show Calf, Charolais, Hereford, Paint horse, Pigs, Bees/Beekeepers, Petting Zoo, Baby Chicks/Mini Chicken House, Ferrier, Vet, Extension Agents, Antique Tractors, New Tractors, Hay Equipment/Hay Bales, Fruit/Veggie Stand, Know Your Poisons Exhibit, Local Tv Weatherman, Cotton, Peanuts, Soybeans/Corn, Grist Mill, Portable Cotton Gin, Sheep Sheering, Soil Tunnel, and a Water Wheel Trailer.

  • 2 months in advance, start contacting teachers for shirt sizes and numbers of students. We also get our ag teachers to send us student workers, so we get worker shirts for them.
  • After exhibitors start agreeing to come and numbers start coming in of those attending, decide what "extras" you're going to offer throughout the day. We contact the county cattleman's association and ask them to donate steak sandwiches for the workers and exhibitors. We get drinks from Coca-Cola. We also make sure to have plenty of water available.

  • We contact Barber's Milk and Bud's Best Cookies to get milk and cookies donated for the kids to eat before they leave. We also order each teacher a reusable shopping bag and fill it full of all kinds of goodies. Some we buy, like ag fact bookmarks and ag coloring books, but some things are donated, like Cotton Inc. stickers, and small sacks of peanuts. Ask anyone and everyone for donations!

  • In the month leading up to the event, make sure to confirm/remind everyone who will be there. Assign jobs. We get some of the ag students to lead classes around, while others we assign to talk about different exhibits. Make sure to assign someone to be in charge of them. Someone to check on your exhibitors-bring them water/lunch, etc? We have a backdrop where we take photos of each class, so we have a photographer. We also have people assigned to help park busses and usher students in the door.

  • In the weeks leading up to the big day, if you ordered shirts, or other materials, make sure you pick a day to sort them. Ours is a big job. We sort everything by class and school. The shirts are brought to the schools a couple of days before the event and the goody bags are given to the teachers right before they board the bus to leave.
  • Don't forget to contact the local newspaper or tv station if you would like some media coverage.
  • We also create a schedule, so we will know when the next group of kids will be arriving. It would be mass chaos if 800 students were there at the same time. Usually, one or two schools are being led around, while one is arriving and one is leaving.

  • Set up as many things as possible, such as tables and livestock panels, the day before. It never fails the day of, tractors will be late or a cow will get loose. Both have happened to us. Don't forget to assign a time for everyone to be there the next morning.

  • Most importantly, don't stress too much and have fun teaching folks about agriculture!