‘Farmtastic Night’ brings the farm to the ballpark

The Kandiyohi County Corn and Soybean Growers Association decided late last year it would increase its efforts around engaging local youth to raise awareness of local agriculture. The pledge became reality last week when nearly 300 area kids attended “Farmtastic Night” with the Willmar Stingers.

Kids learned that corn and more are part of their favorite foods.

Sponsored by the Kandiyohi County Corn and Soybean Growers Association, Farmtastic Night featured a fair of farm activities and information outside of Bill Taunton Stadium for attending families prior to the Stinger’s game Wednesday night.

Sarah Leshuk, who sits on the county organization’s board, spearheaded efforts to not only organize the interactive exhibits outside the ballpark, but also promote it with area youth organizations to ensure a large audience. Leshuk said she handed out 300 tickets to the local YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and more. Accompanying the free tickets was a passport that served as each family’s guide through the many farm-focused exhibits.

Baby animals were a fan favorite at Farmtastic Night.

Hundreds of kids walked with passport in hand as they learned about modern agriculture and the equipment used, identified the crops grown in Minnesota that make up their favorite foods, interacted with baby animals found on farms throughout the state, used a magnifying glass to learn more about the ecosystem under the soil and more.

Leshuk said they worked hard to not take any shortcuts with each exhibit, relying on real-world examples from the farm and beyond. A variety of crops were found at each station, baby animals from local farms were available for petting, and a functional race car run off ethanol blends was available for kids to sit in, as just a few examples.

Leshuk was able to use resources from Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom as educational pieces for students to interact with, and also called on fellow commodity organizations like the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Pork Board, Minnesota Milk Producers Association and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association to help. Volunteers from FFA and 4-H occupied each station serving as instructors for young passport-holders.

While the event was a first for the Kandiyohi county organization, Leshuk said she hopes to make it an annual event and even take the idea beyond the Willmar area.

“I would love to grow this as an annual event where the community can come together and promote agriculture,” Leshuk said. “Kandiyohi is a huge county with a lot of agriculture, but I hope in the future we can grow participation and have this event hit beyond our general population.”

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