MADISON, Neb. — One farmer can feed 144 people for a year.

That's just one of the many facts second- and third-graders from Madison County schools learned during Tuesday’s Life on the Farm Ag Literacy Festival at the Madison County Fairgrounds here.

More than 400 students learned about Nebraska agriculture during two sessions — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The event was coordinated by Madison County 4-H Extension.

"Youth are so far removed from farm life that this day just helps get that firsthand look at agriculture," said Sarah Polacek, 4-H extension assistant for Madison County. "Our goal with this day is to help teach the kids about where their food comes from."

Some kids are surprised when they find out.

"Believe it or not, some people believe that food comes from the grocery store," said Dave Spencer, who works in sales and marketing at Farmers Pride in Battle Creek. He helped lead activities at the festival’s corn and soybean booth.

"We pretty much just started off with how crops are a part of their lives, whether it's the food they eat or the products they go into — you name it, all the different things that corn and soybeans are a part of," Spencer said. "It's a good time at this age to teach the importance of agriculture for us here and what it does beyond this regional area here. It feeds the world."

Another booth, led by Kurt Jackson of Madison, focused on beef, including the products that come from cattle. Jackson explained how hides are used for making basketballs, boots and gloves; how paint brushes are made from animal eyelashes; and how blood from cattle is used in shoe shine.

"We use everything from the animal," Jackson said. "We try not to waste anything."

Students also learned about dairy, swine, poultry, sheep and goats during the day.

Additionally, Jeremy Grant, who farms about six miles south of Meadow Grove, explained how technology has affected agriculture and allowed farmers to feed a growing population.

"How do we feed twice as many people?" Grant asked. "We're going to have to use technology to do more with less."

For example, a $20,000 tractor today, Grant said, does the work of 250 horses, which would have been used to guide plows in 1890.

This is the 14th year of the festival, Polacek said. It's been a popular event, consistently attracting between 400 and 500 students each year.

"This is a favorite. I think that's why we continue to grow and do this for so many years," Polacek said. "Teachers, too, they learn that they can relate it to what they're teaching in the classroom, so it's just that extra piece."

And it's an important lesson for students, especially living in an agricultural-heavy state like Nebraska.

"Once they leave town, once they leave Norfolk, they're going to see agriculture," Spencer said. "So, 'What am I looking at?' Some kids might not know. How that truck works, what it's used for or what the farmer is doing out there. So they'll be better informed citizens going forward as they grow up."

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