AgMagic at the State Fair offers lessons on agriculture’s past, present

Karol Osborne  |  11/6/2017 8:13:02 PM

(11/06/17) SHREVEPORT, La. — Petting live farm animals, touching freshly ginned cotton and watching ants build a colony are just a few of the exciting adventures in store for children visiting AgMagic at the State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport.

The LSU AgCenter-sponsored event features eight interactive exhibits on animals, crops, nutrition and health, forestry, wildlife, horticulture, entomology and 4-H youth development.

More than 3,200 students from northwest Louisiana schools are expected to come to AgMagic on school days scheduled for Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 10. Located in the fairgrounds Agriculture Building, AgMagic also is open to the public until Nov. 12.

“The 4-H model is to learn by doing, so the hands-on aspect of the exhibits is really important for learning about the importance of agriculture,” said Patrick Colyer, director of the AgCenter Northwest Region. “This is truly an educational experience for students who don’t often have an opportunity to touch real animal pelts or see how a cotton gin operates.”

AgMagic exhibits are designed and manned by AgCenter experts and experienced volunteers. With a theme of “Agriculture: An American Tradition,” this year’s event highlights how the industry has evolved over the years to incorporate new technologies designed to meet modern consumer demand.

Visitors can see how cotton is ginned, then climb into a combine simulator and pretend to harvest cotton. It shows how modern precision agriculture technologies and advanced equipment have largely replaced manual labor in farming, said Randall Mallette, AgCenter agent in Natchitoches Parish.

Another station displays an array of vintage saws, knives and other implements once used in forest management. Donny Moon, AgCenter agent in Winn Parish, explained that many of those tools have been superseded by mechanized shears, chainsaws and digital technologies.

Other attractions at AgMagic include an outdoors area, where children can practice putting on a life jacket and learn how to safely get into and out of a kayak and a ground blind for hunting. They also can play games with farm, wildlife and 4-H themes; see ant farms and insects in display cases; and pet animals, including a goat, sheep, pony, zebu calf, rabbits, and baby and adult chickens.

The hands-on nature of AgMagic helps children connect agriculture to food, clothing and other everyday products, said Karen Martin, AgCenter Northwest Region 4-H coordinator.

Brooke Walker, a Webster Parish 4-H Junior Leader, is a veteran AgMagic volunteer who guides children through the farm animal station.

“It’s fun to see how they respond, and they learn a lot,” said Walker, a high school senior.

Leslie Utley, a sixth-grade teacher at the Lagniappe Montessori school in Minden, said many of the activities at AgMagic coincided with topics her class has studied in science and social studies.

“They really enjoyed the games, and the interaction helps them retain more,” Utley said.

A mock farmers market and a 1934 International farm truck loaded with produce sit near where children are told about the importance of eating nutritious fruits and vegetables, and how they can be preserved by canning.

“Our children struggle with being able to picture things that they haven’t experienced, so seeing an antique car and the canning process gives them those real-world connections to build their knowledge base,” said Rheannon DeVillier, who teaches third grade at Walnut Hill Elementary in Shreveport.

In addition to the AgCenter, AgMagic is sponsored by the Ark-La-Tex Agricultural Council, Alta and John Franks Foundation, Gibsland Bank and Trust, Farm Bureau of DeSoto and Caddo parishes, Walmart Foundation, Aetna and Louisiana Master Gardeners.

“AgMagic continues to be an important event for this area by increasing the outreach of the AgCenter and supporting the community effort at the State Fair,” Colyer said.

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A volunteer reacts as she watches a boy toss a hoop toward a model horse target at the LSU AgCenter AgMagic at the State Fair in Shreveport on Nov. 2, 2017. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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A boy steers the wheel inside a combine harvester simulator at the LSU AgCenter AgMagic at the State Fair in Shreveport on Nov. 2, 2017. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Louisiana 4-H’er Connor Arthur, right, chats with a passerby as he holds a baby chick for a visitor to pet at the LSU AgCenter AgMagic at the State Fair in Shreveport on Nov. 2, 2017. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter agent Donny Moon shows how to put on a life jacket at AgMagic at the State Fair in Shreveport on Nov. 2, 2017. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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