The roots of the North Carolina State Fair are in agriculture. Of course, good eats, thrilling rides and games grab a lot of attention, but our state would not be the great place it is without our farmers! Daniel Beasley, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Rolesville High School, sees the importance of agriculture every day and aims to teach his students about the importance of the industry.
“Being involved in agriculture shows kids the compassion that it takes to care for an animal that needs them and how to do it properly. More than anything it is knowing that their food just doesn’t show up at the grocery store,” Beasley said.
One of the ways that he places importance on agriculture is by involving his students with the Children’s Barnyard at the N.C. State Fair. Many schools collaborate to put this attraction together, for example, Rolesville provides the chickens, rabbits and sheep for the barn.
“There are 18 agriculture programs in Wake County, so all of them work at least a part of a day at the fair. We all work together with our students to get the animals together and our goal is to create an exhibit where kids who aren’t exposed to farm life get a little bit of exposure while at the fair,” Beasley said.
Although the Children’s Barnyard has been around the State Fair for as long as Beasley can remember, he admits that it is not always the same, “It’s a look-and-don’t-touch petting zoo. It’s a little different every year, but we get as many critters as we can and different breeds. It depends on what our students have as a part of the program.”
And it is the students that are at the center of the barnyard. Although, there are adult volunteers and advisors that help the students complete the huge task of making sure the animals are safe, clean and happy.
Beasley says that working at the barnyard, even if it is for one day a year, is very beneficial in educating his students.
“My students come from a background where they didn’t get the advantages of a rural life like I had. When your neighbor is on top of you, there’s only so many types of animals that you can get exposed to. Students get opportunities that they wouldn’t get by being a part of both the barnyard and FFA.”
There is even a concession stand near the barnyard that sells affordable drinks and snacks for fairgoers. Students and adults also staff this to raise money for their schools’ FFA programs and fund things like socials, conferences and banquets.
“The concession stand is secondary, the educational piece of the barnyard is what matters. I hope that we can keep doing it for as long as we can,” Beasley said.
Beasley remembers the Children’s Barnyard being popular back when he was a high school student. The barnyard used to be a petting zoo, but he admits that even with all the changes made to it, he still gets excited to come back every year.
“We’re starting to get back to the full State Fair experience after Covid,” Beasley said. “There’s going to be so many people, so that’s exciting. We’re also working on getting more kids involved with the new programs that we’re adding in Wake County so that more kids will be able to work.”
The more people visiting and working at the barnyard, the better, since the experience is valuable to everyone involved. Last year, the lines for the barnyard were longer than they have been in previous years, Beasley said.
“I think that were doing better at promoting as a county. And kids that are graduating are bringing their kids back.”
The lessons that students and visitors learn at the barnyard can be carried throughout generations. Depending on where someone is from, the Children’s Barnyard might even be someone’s first experience with agriculture, which is why events like the State Fair are so valuable.
“We’ve always got a chance to spread the importance of agriculture and to start it young, which is why the Fair is important,” Beasley said.
Join us Oct 12-22 at the N.C. Fairgrounds to experience North Carolina agriculture, and so much more. And don’t forget to stop by the Children’s Barnyard to see a variety of animals up close and personal!