HAMILTON, Ohio — When Drew Swigart, 5, visited the Butler County Fair, he not only saw steers, he learned at the Commodity Carnival what it takes to get one to the fair or market. Nationwide, this interactive fair experience educated more than 54,000 kids about agriculture last year.
Commodity Carnival focuses on teaching kids 8-14 years of age about what goes into raising a steer as a project to bring it to the county fair, or to sell it at the market, said Kevin Harris, the Ohio State University extension educator 4-H Youth Development, Butler County.
Through interactive games, children learn about caring for the animals and the risks farmers take. Three games tell participants how to: grow your livestock; sell your livestock; and win a ribbon. This is the second year for the event; last year’s project was raising pigs.
"We have feed here, because many kids don’t have a clue about what steers eat," Harris said. "We also talk about the fact that some cows are grass-fed. I ask them, ‘What is the largest input that goes into that animal?’ I ask, ‘Have you eaten today?’ and they think, ‘Oh that steer has to be fed.’"
Children don’t think about things like lights in a barn and that there is an electric bill for it, Harris said. There’s also a water bill, and, if the animal gets sick, they have to call a veterinarian. The largest input is going to be the feed that animal will consume.
"That can be anything from the grain, the grass or hay that the animal eats," Harris said. "They learn about the expense that goes into raising that steer, about the risk. If there is a drought and a shortage of grain, the grain prices go up.
"They learn about breakeven price – we explain if they get a price above breakeven what happens; if they make less, what does that mean?"
The Commodity Carnival is also a way to market the 4-H program in Butler County, Harris said. More than 200 children each day go through this educational booth. Many are not familiar with 4-H, so Harris and his helpers educate them about that.
"We’re having input on what kids are learning here, where food comes from when they go to Burger King or McDonald’s, so they have a deeper appreciation of what farmers do to get that food to McDonald’s or wherever," he said. "It is a good, educational booth to get kids thinking about where is food coming from."
The Commodity Carnival was developed in 2013 by OSU. CME Group, which oversees the Chicago Board of Trade, and the National 4-H Council partnered in 2013 and 2014 to bring the event to 120 state and county fairs in 11 states. New this year is that families can access the Commodity Carnival game online, as a downloadable app from their mobile devices.
The partnership between CME and National 4-H is part of CME’s ongoing educational efforts around markets and risk management, according to CME.