Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Jay and Colleen Meyer
Founders and Operators, Ravalli County 4th Grade Farm Fair

Stevensville, Montana
Farm Credit Affiliation
Northwest Farm Credit Services
Jay and Colleen's Perspective

Former teacher and current rancher Jay Meyer and his wife, Colleen, are working to provide direct hands-on education about agriculture to youth through the Ravalli County 4th Grade Farm Fair, which Jay launched in 1992 as an extension of the “Ag in Montana Schools” curriculum.

The Farm Fair provides a variety of educational sessions – 20 in all – for area fourth-grade students. Sessions cover traditional agriculture commodities as well as natural resource management, interactive processes like rope making and "cowboying," and local highlights like apple production and bee keeping.

“For many students, teachers and chaperons this may be their first exposure to the many aspects of agriculture,” says Jay. ”Our goal is to teach the diversity of agriculture through the twenty interactive learning stations."

In the 24 years since Jay founded the program, approximately 12,000 fourth graders have been impacted, 500 each year of the program. Each student receives an illustrated Farm Fair workbook to share the lessons at home, further expanding the program’s reach.

The couple initially engaged the local ag community to provide volunteers to teach the sessions. As the urban population grew and residents in Western Montana saw a widening gap away from their agricultural heritage, Jay and Colleen embarked on a forward-thinking plan: to engage non-traditional agriculturists, natural resource enthusiasts and environmental stewards. Exposing non-traditional stakeholders to agriculture education at a basic level broke down philosophical walls and opened up dialog that had not existed before in the Bitterroot Valley.

Further engaging the community, Jay and Colleen now include county 4-H and FFA members as presenters, and look to them to provide diversity, perspective and future interests to ongoing discussions of Farm Fair stations, educational materials and processes.

“The FFA Creed is as fresh today as it was in the 1930s. The Creed talks about leadership from ourselves, respect for others, to work efficiently, think clearly, gain knowledge and to serve others while producing and marketing agricultural products,” Jay says. “Our young agriculturists are motivated to meet these challenges. The agricultural career possibilities are exciting and almost endless. As we pass the baton, agriculture will be in very capable hands.”

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