The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Chloe Henderson, 17, a junior at Hamilton Heights High School, pets a calf as she volunteers talking about beef cattle during the 33rd annual Hamilton County Ag Day at the 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Chloe Henderson, 17, a junior at Hamilton Heights High School, pets a calf as she volunteers talking about beef cattle during the 33rd annual Hamilton County Ag Day at the 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville.

What do sheep eat? How many eggs do chickens produce in a year? And what’s the most important piece of gear when horseback riding?

Those were among the questions asked by the more than 2,200 second-graders who descended upon the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds Tuesday through Thursday for the 33rd annual Ag Day.

In total, students from 17 public schools and two private schools in Hamilton County attended the day that had classes rotating to a different display or demonstration every 10 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, all getting a lunch whipped up by Purdue Extension Service staff members.

Second-graders could watch a sheep being sheared in less than four minutes in the Small Animal Barn. They could get up close with a llama and learn more about the pack animals. They could see baby pigs and pet a cow and calf.

They could pet a chicken, learn about soil and water, honey bees, about how drones can assist farmers, how corn is harvested, and just how high Reynolds Farm Equipment’s big John Deere combine sits off the ground.

Second-graders could learn about the age-old art of spinning from Conner Prairie textile specialist Sue Payne, who invited my daughter, a Conner Prairie youth volunteer, to share her skills learned at Conner Prairie.

National Ag Day was actually celebrated on Thursday, with Agriculture Council of America playing host.

Lisa Hanni, youth program assistant for Purdue Extension Service in Hamilton County, coordinates the annual Hamilton County Ag Day. 

“It’s the largest program that we do besides the (Hamilton County 4-H) Fair. So it takes the combination of all of our office putting it together,” said Hanni, who usually reaches out to the 4-H program’s livestock superintendents, who talk to 4-H’ers who show in the sheep, horse, swine, llama and cattle projects about volunteering their time during the three-day event that took over the main buildings at the Fairgrounds from Tuesday to Thursday.

The Ag Day attracted 300 students the first year, in 1987. This week, more than 2,200 students, plus teachers and parents, attended, and there is a waiting list of five schools to join the program. 

Many of these second-graders had never seen up close llamas, pigs, sheep or horses.

While the students could pet some of the animals, they weren’t allowed to pet the horses.

“We’re definitely not a petting zoo,” Hanni said. 

“Really the goal of Ag Day is learning where their food and fiber come from. We are three generations removed from the farm now,” Hanni said. “Second-graders coming in truly think that their food comes from the grocery store.”

She said, “Hopefully, the kids learned something and will take that back and share it with their families.”

The volunteers for the day were mostly middle or high school students.

Hanni said, “It’s a great learning experience for them, because sometimes they’ve never spoken in front of a group before, and it’s not very intimidating to talk to second-graders...By the time that they’re done, they’re having so much fun.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com