WATERLOO | Young Black Hawk County Fair-goers are receiving an early lesson in realizing what it takes to produce and bring animals to market at this year’s Commodity Carnival booth.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group and the National 4-H Council have partnered for the second year in order to educate young people about agricultural science and economics.
“U.S. farmers and ranchers are getting older and there are fewer people standing in line to take their place,” a 2012 article in Iowa Farmer Today, a Lee Enterprises sister publication of The Courier, reported.
Advancements in technology have spurred more diverse career paths in agriculture for future generations, but the average age of farmers has climbed up to the late 50s, according to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture.
The Commodity Carnival is aiming to reach out to younger generations. Last year, the interactive game educated more than 54,000 youths at 120 state and county fairs in 11 states last year.
Chris Grams, director of corporate communications at CME group, said the carnival is all about experiencing what it's like to run a farm and the work that goes into raising animals.
“We really want (the kids) to gain an understanding that farming is a business and that farmers and ranchers do face risk in bringing food to the market,” Grams said.
The game is composed of three main steps: grow your livestock, sell your livestock and win a ribbon.
“This year kids will be challenged to grow a steer and take their steer to market,” Grams said.
When kids arrive to the booth, they receive a gold Easter egg that represents the steer. They then fill up the egg with beads that represent various inputs necessary for raising the steer, including feed, health care costs and facility costs. The egg is then weighed and the grams are converted to a price. The child will receive a disk that represents one of the three price ranges available.
The disk is dropped through a Plinko board, with the spokes symbolizing the different risks they can hit along the way. The disk lands on a price and the kids can break even, lose money or make money with their steer.
“What we’re teaching them is that there is a lot that goes into bringing food from the farm to the dinner plate,” Grams said.
Yesterday marked the first Commodity Carnival of the week. Michelle Temeyer, executive director of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, helped run the booth and kept kids engaged by asking them “Now, what are you going to do with that money?” when they made a profit, and asked how that money would affect their family or home if they lost it due to the risk.
Due to the carnival's success, CME Group also has launched an app that allows people to experience Commodity Carnival outside of the fair. "Risk Ranch" is a free game that mocks the carnival experience and has been used as a learning tool in the classroom.
Kids still have a chance to take a risk at the fair. The Commodity Carnival booth will be at the Black Hawk County Fair at the National Cattle Congress today from 12 to 4 p.m. and tomorrow from 12 ti 8 p.m.