Monday, July 1, 2013

Ft. Wayne River Fest Provides Opportunity to Help Educate Urban Residents About Agriculture Production and Ag Environmental Stewardship

By Jim Lake

Jim is a District Support Specialist in the northeast area of Indiana. Jim has been working in conservation for over 40 years, in which time he has not only dutifully served ISDA’s Division of Soil Conservation, but also has played a formative role in creating the national Conservation Tillage Information Center.  In his many years of dedication to conservation, Jim has also aided nearly every state in the US in creating plans for addressing non-point source water pollution.  He has managed the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District and has been a leader at Purdue University’s agronomy department as a Soil and Water Conservation Education Specialist.

Each of the last two years the St. Joseph River, Upper Maumee River Watershed Project and St. Mary’s River Watersheds Groups have joined forces with the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and cooperating agricultural producers and equipment dealers to provide educational displays at the Ft. Wayne River Fest. 

This year’s River Fest held Saturday, June 22 on the shoreline of the St. Joseph River at Fort Wayne’s Indiana-Purdue University Campus. The River Fest drew over 15,000 people. The River Fest is marketed as a family fun and educational day and primarily draws city and suburban residents of Ft. Wayne and suburb areas.  

A highlight at the event is the agricultural equipment display. This year, a large tractor, no-till soybean planter, precision sprayer and a grain combine were on display. Jim Lake, District Support Specialists for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, has helped with the agricultural equipment display each of the last two years. The large equipment is a magnet for children who love to climb up into the cabs of the equipment. While the parents are waiting in line to help their children get up into the equipment, we have the opportunity to talk to the parents about agricultural production practices farmers are using to help protect and improve water quality of the river. We use this opportunity to talk about no-till planting and precision farming technology being used by farmers to reduce soil erosion and accurately apply fertilizer and other crop inputs. The folks in attendance, for the most part, have no current connection with farming, and at best remember going to their grandparent's farm when they were growing up.

I like to ask visitors to the equipment display what they think the equipment they are looking at costs. For example, when I ask what they think the combine costs many respond with a guess of about $100,000 and I tell them $450,000 including the grain head. They are shocked at the costs and the amount of money farmers have invested just in equipment.  I think it very important for those of us engaged in agriculture make efforts to educate our urban and city neighbors on the many aspects of agriculture including the conservation efforts Hoosier farms use in their day to day operations.    

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