Tips for a Successful Farm Field Day
The goal of farm field days is to increase agricultural literacy in your community. A field day is one method that can be used to increase student awareness about agriculture and instill in students an appreciation for our food and fiber system. If you have any questions about holding a farm field day, contact Utah AITC at 435-797-0765.
The following people would be helpful to have on your farm field day committee: County Extension Agricultural or 4-H agents, County Farm Bureau representatives, local conservation district supervisor, local Ag Science Teachers/FFA advisors, elementary school teachers and administrators, Owner/manager of field day site, agribusiness professional.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting (and keeping) a farm field day going is funding. Most school’s budgets are strained and they do not have the money to pay for buses for field trips. That is where the county Farm Bureau and the NRCS can help. Both have money they can donate to pay for buses and drivers for field trips. You might also ask the local commodities groups to donate time, money, and products to have a luncheon for your volunteers.
We believe the best location to hold farm field days (FFD) is on an actual working farm, but if that is not an option you can hold it at your local fairgrounds. There are several things to consider when choosing a location for a FFD:
> Distance from the schools—The cost of buses is based on mileage and travel time is a factor.
> Space—You will need room to separate the stations so the students at each station are focused on their station’s presenter (not the one next to them).
> Bathrooms—Most FFD’s haul in port-a-potties.
> Weather—If you run into bad weather, is the grounds graveled or will you be knee deep in mud? If gravel is not an option, consider putting down hay trails to walk on.
> Seating—People in Utah County use buckets. People in Cache County and in Sanpete use hay bales.
> Trash—You will need large, visible trash cans available.
You will want to set your FFD date well in advance for the following reasons: teachers regularly plan their schedules 2-3 months in advance; buses will need to be scheduled 2-3 months in advance; commodities groups will need advanced notice and other FFD’s may be scheduled for the same date making people/trailers unavailable for the date you select; the FFA will need advanced notice so they can arrange to be out of school that date; you will need to meet with and train your volunteers; you will need time to gather supplies.
Market your field day 2-3 months in advance to schools. Email principals, superintendents, and the school board to alert them to your event and explain what it is and why it is important. Each teacher who will be invited to the FFD should receive a letter explaining the activities, theme, and purpose of the event. Offering to pay for buses/drivers is a good selling point. Include a flyer with the following details: arrival and departure time; parking; location (include a map if necessary); meeting place. Once teachers have registered to attend the FFD, a follow-up letter should be sent.Contact your county Extension Agent and have them list the FFD on their website and consider even having teachers register for your FFD on their website. For more information about how to have a county Extension Agent make a FFD website where teachers can register, contact Vernon Parent in Salt Lake County. Also, be sure to Contact AITC to have us list your FFD on our website.
> Encourage teachers to have students dress appropriately. This may include coats or light clothing depending on what the weather dictates. Open toed shoes are discouraged.
> Examine all fences and animal pens.
> Closely supervise activates where students will be in close proximity to animals; hand washing stations should be nearby.
> ALL food and drink should be given in an area separate from the animals. Do not let guests picnic in animal areas; separate lunch areas should be available.
> Have a short safety meeting with your volunteers before the students arrive.
> Consider a sheep shearing or sheep dog demonstration while students wait for the other buses to arrive.
> Inform your local media and press, make personal invitations to government officials.
> Review the rotation or organizational plan with your tour guides and presenters prior to the student’s arrival.
> Post signage for restroom and garbage facilities.
Each field day is a little different, but all feature local commodities that are unique to that county. Sanpete, for example, does a station on turkeys. The key is to not have too many (or too few) stations. Elementary school students have a short attention span, so if stations are too short they get hit with “the fire hydrant” and absorb nothing. If stations are too long, the students loose interest and are hard to manage. Somewhere between 8-12 stations of 8-15 minutes each is just about right. Also keep in mind when you are planning for overall time you have to account for the passing time between stations. Click here to go to a table with Suggested Stations, Commodity Contacts, and Presenter Resources. Presenters should keep in mind that students study agriculture on a variety of topics in their classes. Consider reviewing the AITC resource "Agriculture...Where Does It Fit- In every grade level" so you can relate to your presentation to what students are already learning in the classroom.