FARMINGTON — Just before 9 a.m. Monday, the sheep barn on the Farmington Fairgrounds was calm and quiet.
Shortly after a rooster crowed, the air was filled with excited chatter and the sound of footsteps as the first busload of students made their way into the barn.
The 26th Annual Agriculture Education Day at Farmington Fair had begun with an estimate of over 1,000 students, chaperones and teachers attending.
Agriculture Education Day is organized by the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District. Students from Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties attended the event this year, Executive Director Rosetta White said.
A wet start led to a few last-minute changes so presenters were sheltered from the rain. White said Agriculture Education Day, also known as Ag Day, has never had to be canceled, though some professionals and schools chose not to participate because of the weather.
A participant with blueberry and cranberry displays had to travel three hours to get to the fair and said the displays couldn’t get wet. The owner of the draft horse didn’t want the animal standing half the day in the rain and chose not to come, she said.
“We lucked out,” Farmington Fair Assistant Superintendent Randy Hall said. “The weather is perfect.”
Worthley Arena was packed with students making their way from one station to another. The students could learn about agriculture and other natural resource-based industries through talks, handouts and hands-on activities.
Rhonda Hartford, a first-grade teacher at the W.G. Mallett School in Farmington, said, “Earlier today, I thought, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be hard.’ It turned out wonderful.”
“It’s a busy place,” Hall said. “The students are well behaved. They are filling in their scavenger hunts, asking questions. It’s not just about today. This also teaches them not to be afraid to ask questions, which is good.”
Several museums were also open for the students to visit. Volunteers gave demonstrations on blacksmithing, boiling sap into maple syrup and home crafts, such as tatting and spinning wool into yarn.
“Holy mackerel! What a pile of kids,” Stan Tilton, president of the Western Maine Blacksmith Association, said. “Seeing their beautiful faces, asking questions. They are our future.”
Erica Emery, a volunteer with Regional School Unit 9 in Farmington said, “It cleared. I’m so glad we didn’t cancel. The kids are happy and dry.”
Near the end of the program, White said, “Overall, the day went really well. Most of the presenters and schools were here. We missed the few that didn’t come.”
Total numbers aren’t in yet, but it is estimated that over 1,000 students, chaperones and teachers attended Agriculture Education Day this year. Public, private and home schools participated, White said.