Indiana FFA members bring agricultural education to the public at the state fair each year. For several decades, chapters from across the state have put in countless hours to educate and inspire fairgoers of all backgrounds at the FFA Pavilion on the northside of the fairground. By providing entertainment and fun opportunities, children and adults can gain a deeper understanding of agriculture and what goes into the many aspects of food production.
“The pavilion is broken up into a couple of different sections to provide learning opportunities to fairgoers and to showcase the various activities of Indiana FFA and our membership,” said Robert Hays, director of the Indiana FFA Association. “Each year we look to enhance the displays and education that is found in the pavilion with major overhauls to different sections every three to five years.”
The largest of the pavilion’s three major parts focuses on agricultural education and has six different areas and activities for visitors to explore. “Beakers in the Barnyard,” hosted in partnership with Corteva Agriscience and their Science Ambassador program, helps draw a direct connection between agriculture and science. “Rooted in the City,” shows how agriculture expands beyond the country and highlights the many ways cityscapes can and are being utilized to grow food products. The story of food production is told in an area called “Farm to Fork” where children use activities to learn how their food gets from the farm all the way to their kitchen tables. An area called the “Conservation Station” shows the important role farmers take in caring for the environment they work in. “The Tech in Mech” is a station that gives children activities related to agricultural mechanics and relays them to the simple concepts they use daily, such as in their family car. And finally, there is a free Putt Putt course that is a big hit, it features a full 18-hole miniature golf course that features a variety of fun agriculture facts visitors learn along the way.
There is an entire section dedicated to animals, complete with a farm animal petting zoo. Here FFA chapters also showcase information about the student projects and Supervised Agricultural Experiences going on. There are also features of different FFA programs, success stories, and events you’ll find around the building.
To top it all off, the pavilion also has its own country market section, the Indiana FFA Foundation’s own story filled with value-added products grown and made in the state. Proceeds go to different FFA scholarships and programming.
The seven state FFA officers play a large role in helping the event run smoothly. It takes nearly a month of dedicated preparation and work, plus working through the full 17 days of fair. There are about 450-500 volunteers that make the Pavilion possible. Teamwork goes into the physical setup and tear down, planning, and running the activities throughout the week and interacting with the public.
“Everything that is on display in the FFA building is built and/or a vision of our FFA members,” said Hays. “Additionally, members get the opportunity to work the store and the various displays, interacting with the public sharing the message of agriculture and FFA. Our membership is often developing the soft skills of communication and interaction on a large scale at the state fair.”
Year after year, fairgoers come back to the pavilion. Walk inside any given day of the fair and you can expect to see droves of participants involved in the various activities. The building remains open 12 long hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day of the fair.
In fact, many fairgoers report that the FFA Pavilion is their first stop of the day each year and is their main draw to the fair.
“Overall the pavilion takes a lot of man power and volunteers to happen, but in Indiana FFA we can’t imagine being anywhere else for the month of August,” Hays said. “The interaction with the public, sharing our message of Agriculture and FFA is beyond amazing for our students and staff.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic “agvocate,” professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.