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Farm Animal Days: Connecting Agriculture and Education

NC State student shows young boy a chick.

When the trio of 5-year-old buddies — two of them in full Batman costume — took on Farm Animal Field Days on Wednesday, Michael, Karston and Emory agreed on two things:

That the best part was getting to pet the horses.

And what horses feel like when you pet them.

“Soft blankets,” Emory said, as the other two nodded and jumped up and down.

A longtime spring tradition at NC State University’s Beef Education Unit, Farm Animal Days lets area children experience agriculture up close and hands on.

It’s more than just a fun day at the farm. Experts from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are on hand to give presentations and answer questions. Field days are important because agriculture is crucial to the North Carolina economy, said Animal Science Department Head Todd See – and more than two-thirds of that contribution is generated by farm animals.

“What we try to do is give everybody in Raleigh and the surrounding areas an opportunity to come out and learn about [these animals]…and how they are important in their everyday lives,” See said.

Cars and buses lined up on the gravel road 45 minutes before kickoff time on opening day this week, full of eager children and education-minded parents and teachers. By noon on the first day, about 2,000 people had already arrived.

Parent Shenice Patton brought her son and one of his friends to the event to teach them about how the food on their dinner plate gets there every night.

“I wanted my children to have…the experience of seeing things up close instead of in a book, of being able to touch and feel,” Patton said.

This year’s event featured a more accessible layout, as well as the usual array of turkeys, chicks, goats, sheep, pigs, cows, calves, horses and a massive bull named Big T who inspired a moment of silent awe in many of the children who approached his pen.

The event is organized and run by faculty and students from multiple departments, mainly Animal Science and Poultry Science. Junior poultry science major Emily Povazsay helped run the feed booth on Wednesday.

“I think [the children] are surprised at everything that goes into growing an animal,” Povazsay said.

With most of the United States’ population at least two generations removed from farm work, Farm Animal Days provides a unique opportunity – and one that’s fun to watch even if you work with livestock every day, said Billy Flowers, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Animal Science.

“Every time I come out here and watch this, I’m just amazed at how the people interact with the animals,” Flowers said. “Most people understand the animal-human bond because they have a cat or dog at home, but then they come out and see these large livestock…it’s the same kind of bond, and I think a lot of people have never experienced that.”