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Summer Ag-Ventures for your Family

Summertime is a great time to explore and learn about agriculture and the farmers who produce the food, fiber and fuel that we depend on every day. Here are some easy ways to learn more about farming and agriculture this summer.


Grow a plant … or a few. If you have a garden, that is a great way to teach kids about where our food comes from. But, many families don’t have the space, the time or the interest in having an entire garden. Just one plant – a tomato plant or a pepper plant in a container – is a great way to teach your kids how plants grow and produce food. Visit a local greenhouse in your area to pick out your plant. Talk to the employees there to learn about how to select and care for your plant(s). With the right amount of space, water and sunshine you should get a tasty reward from a mature plant.


Visit a Farmer’s Market – Twin City Farmers Market in Sterling is one example of a Farmer’s Market in our area (open on Saturday morning). Every visit to a Farmer’s Market is different – depending on what is in season for different growers. Visit a farmer’s market regularly and talk with the growers/producers who are selling at the market – they usually like to tell you more about what they are selling. Buying fresh from the producer is the best way to try new foods or to enjoy your old favorites.


Watch the corn grow. This one needs to be done over time – but, it might surprise you. Find a farm field near where you live and drive by about once a week. By mid-May we’ll likely see corn growing in many fields across Whiteside County. Those plants will grow about eight feet in just a matter of weeks. Have your kids document the plant growth and what they observe throughout the summer. The corn produced in our farmers’ fields will be used primarily to make ethanol (a renewable fuel for our cars) and to feed livestock across the US and around the world.


Watch a barge lock through at Lock & Dam 13 on the Mississippi River north of Fulton. We cross the Mississippi River so often that we sometimes forget the importance of one of the longest rivers in the United States. Barges on the river transport our corn and soybeans downriver to the Gulf of Mexico where some of our grain is then loaded onto cargo ships and sent around the world. Even if you don’t get to see a barge lock through, you will likely see barges in the area. One single barge holds about 58,000 bushels of corn. It would take 70 semi-trucks to transport that same amount of corn.


Attend a county fair to learn more about agriculture. We’re still not sure what our county fairs will look like this summer – but we’re all hoping that exhibits are open to the public. If you get a chance, visit a fair (or more than one because they are all a little bit different). If exhibitors in the livestock barns are not busy getting ready to show, ask them about their animals and how they care for them. The 150th Whiteside County Fair is August 17th – 21st. Other fairs in the area are earlier in the summer – watch for local announcements of dates and schedules.


Don’t miss the pop-up produce stands! When it is peak season, growers will often have pop-up stands to sell their produce straight from the farm. July and August is a great time to enjoy fresh sweet corn and melons along with garden produce like tomatoes, summer squash and peppers. Enjoy the delicious farm-fresh flavors with your family!


School may be out for the summer. But, when it comes to agriculture, summer is an excellent time for learning. See what you can discover this summer!