Feaga makes self-guided ag-education tour for fair
WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. — Agricultural education is center-stage at fairs throughout the region, but the ways exhibitors educate the public are constantly changing to reach the public more effectively.
At this year’s Howard County Fair, Ellie Feaga focused on agriculture education for her 4-H Diamond Clover Level Six Service Project by creating a self-guided tour for fairgoers to complete.
The Diamond Clover Level Six Award is the highest leadership award a Maryland 4-Her can receive. It is given to 4-H seniors who complete a minimum of eight specified activities in addition to a major service project expected to take at least 100 hours.
Feaga said she has always had a passion for agricultural education, but she really began to see just how needed it was when she saw a child at the Maryland State Fair call a cow a puppy.
In 2017, Feaga volunteered at her county fair to assist in leading guided tours to educate the public on agriculture, but she noticed a flaw in the program.
While the tours were incredibly educational, it was often difficult for fairgoers to devote 30 minutes for the tour with so much going on at the fair. This inspired Feaga to create the new, self-guided program to expand this outreach to more fairgoers, and thus the proposal process began.
While working on the project, Feaga said she worked closely with the Farm Academy, an agricultural education group in the county that organized the guided tours.
“The Farm Academy was really supportive of my project all the way through,” she said. “They really helped develop it, (and) are very generous to me and Ag education.”
Once the proposal was approved, Feaga started creating passports for the self-guided tours.
These passports included commonly asked questions that participants had to find the answers to at various sites around the fairgrounds. She prepared questions of varying difficulties so fairgoers of all ages could participate in the program.
The passport included seven stops, and at each stop a sign had fun facts about that aspect of agriculture.
Everyone who participated could receive a prize for turning in the passport.
Throughout the process, Feaga said the tedious paperwork proved to be the most challenging part, but community support and involvement made it all worth it.
The Howard County Fair Board and local Lions Club were both large supporters of the project who provided the majority of the funding.
To prepare for the fair, Feaga started with 500 copies of the passport but ran out in the first few days.
She said she was elated to witness the success of the project, and had another 1,500 printed for the remainder of the week.
“It’s so cool when I see kids walking around with the passport because I get to see them learn through my project,” she said.
She said 1,174 people participated in the passport tour this year, with 553 returning to the booth to claim a prize. Feaga said the success has inspired her to continue the program for years to come with new questions each year.
She said she also hopes to reincorporate the guided tours as well, to accommodate different learning styles.