Are you going to the Illinois State Fair? Be sure to take the Illinois State Fair Ag Tour for an inside view of the state’s agriculture industry.
We took the tour the first year it was offered. Aboard an antique tractor-pulled wagon, we visited several areas of the fairgrounds, as college interns explained various aspects of agriculture. Our tour hosts, Ellie and Amy, both grew up on farms and major in agriculture-related studies.
Ag Tour Stop: Dairy Barn
At our first stop, the Dairy Barn, Morgan, a fourth-generation dairy farmer and a Midwest Dairy Association summer intern, hopped aboard the wagon. She shared these fascinating facts about the dairy industry:
- A calf weighs about 100 pounds when born.
- Cows are usually milked two or three times a day. However, some farms milk them even more frequently.
- By volume, Holstein cows produce the most milk. Jersey cows produce milk with the highest butterfat content, good for making cheese.
Ag Tour Stop: Piglets on Parade
Ellie and Amy filled us in on a few pig facts on our way to the Piglets on Parade exhibit, where the Illinois pork intern provided even more pig information..
- Pigs don’t sweat. They roll around in mud to keep cool.
- A pig’s gestation period is three months, three weeks and three days.
- Market weight of a pig is 250 to 270 pounds.
Farmer’s Little Helper
Before we left the Piglets on Parade area we learned about the Farmer’s Little Helper exhibit. Here children learn about the two types of grain grown in Illinois: corn and soybeans. In the “ag-tivity” tent young children can play games, hear stories and use special equipment that checks for dirty hands.
Ag Tour Stop: Horse Racing Barns
At our next stop we visited the Giberson Racing barns, where the Giberson’s horses stay year-round. We met some of the Giberson family, including trainer Nick Giberson.
- Horses have been domesticated for 5,000 years and have been used for racing since 648 B.C.
- Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal.
- Race horses practice 365 days a year.
- Horses can run up to 27 miles per hour, but the fastest horse has been tracked at 55 miles per hour.
Ag Tour Stop: FFA Barnyard
Our last stop was the FFA (Future Farmers of America) barnyard, a temporary home of baby animals. The FFA has been part of many Illinois high schools since 1929 and is an integral part of exposing students to agriculture. The organization also helps develop students’ leadership skills. The FFA isn’t just for future farmers, but for anyone thinking about a career in agriculture-related fields. Some of those fields are environmental engineer, conservation police, landscape designer, and nutritionist.
Ellie and Amy chatted about other farm animals, like goats, sheep, rabbits, and poultry as we rode from stop to stop. (Did you know that rabbits can breathe only through their noses, not their mouths?) Although we thought we knew quite a bit about agriculture, we learned even more on the tour.
The tour is free, but you must register at the Illinois Department of Agriculture Tent since space is limited. Visit the Illinois State Fair web site for times and complete fair details.
Disclosure: The Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted our visit to the Illinois State Fair. We received complimentary accommodations at the Quality Inn & Suites and a meal from the Illinois Pork Producers Association, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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