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Visit Ag Expo to see how your groceries are grown

July 17, 2008

If high gasoline prices are putting a crimp in your family's entertainment budget, there's an event starting today that's both fun, educational and affordable.

It's Washington County's 28th annual Ag Expo and Fair, which will run through July 24 at the Agricultural Educational Center at 7313 Sharpsburg Pike.

Although there will be a carnival this year, for us, the event's most interesting exhibits are the 4-H animals.

Raised by children sometimes as young as 10, these cows, lambs, goats, rabbits, chickens and other animals are the product of a great deal of hard work.

The young exhibitor's first job is to do research on breeds and the feed they require. Then the animal is purchased and the real work begins.

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Like children, animals don't thrive without daily care. In addition to feeding and watering, that means cleaning out their pens, grooming them and monitoring them for signs of disease or injury.

Then there's the record-keeping, because unless you know how much it costs to raise an animal, you don't know what price you've got to get to make a profit when it's sold.

Then comes the final lesson, which sometimes isn't learned without a tear or two: Livestock is a commodity, and for farm families, staying on the land isn't possible unless there's a profit.

Feeder cattle go to market when they're ready for slaughter and dairy cows are taken out of the herd when their milk production falls below acceptable levels.

If you don't live on the farm, the lesson for your own children is that food does not magically appear on the shelves of the supermarket. It is produced by people who work hard, seldom get a day off and depend a great deal on the weather for their success or failure.

Farm families are being stressed today by increasing feed prices, as more corn is diverted to ethanol production and by the rising prices of diesel and gasoline.

Despite the hardships, they persist, keeping much of Washington County's rural character intact.

Ag Expo is an opportunity to see the results of their hard work. It is also a chance for those who don't work on the farm to thank those who do for all that they contribute to the community.

For a full schedule of events, click here.

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