Annual Ag Expo teaches elementary students the truth about food

Dylan Ford popped a few kernels of golden jubilee corn into his mouth. His face scrunched up, and his lips puckered. He then tried some kernels of golden jubilee super sweet corn, and a smile spread across his face.

“It’s sweet, isn’t it?” asked Emily Hall of Stahlbush Island Farms. “It’s like candy!”

The lesson for the Hoover Elementary School fourth-grader and his classmates, as they tested the different varieties: Not all corn is created equal.

That’s among the agricultural lessons being served up this week for about 650 third- and fourth-graders from Corvallis and Philomath during the annual Ag Expo at the Benton County Fairgrounds. The expo started Tuesday and runs through today.

Established in 2000, the expo rotates between an agriculture and a forestry emphasis each year. The three-day event is sponsored by the Benton County Fairgrounds, Starker Forests and the Corvallis School District.

Dick Powell, a public outreach forester for Starter Forests, said that as society becomes more urbanized, it is more important than ever to educate students about the role that agriculture plays in their lives.

“A lot of adults now buy their food from the store,” Powell said. “ We want students to understand where food really comes from.”

Students rotated between 10 different stations on Tuesday, including one where they learned about one of the valley’s primary agricultural enterprises — grass seed farming.

Powell said each station was designed to teach students at least two concepts. For example, at the station featuring corn and squash, students learned (with help from Hall) the answers to the following questions:

• Is all corn created equal? (No, because there are many different varieties).

• Can you name some winter squash varieties that are grown in Oregon? (butternut, golden delicious and pumpkin).

One of the most popular stops was the poultry station, where students learned about chickens and how they lay eggs. Their favorite part was getting to hold and to pet the downy baby chicks.

“The shocking thing for me was learning how the egg is formed inside the hen’s body,” said Adams School third-grader Maria Fuller. “Hens are really cool animals.”

Raju Woodward can be contacted at 541-758-9526 or raju.woodward@lee.net

Raju Woodward is the K-12 education reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9526 or raju.woodward@lee.net