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From farm to table: Fifth graders experience agriculture at Kootenai County Fairgrounds

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | May 16, 2024 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Smiles and laughter abounded Wednesday morning as local kids got up close and personal with some very different kids — baby Nigerian Dwarf goats, some as young as two weeks old. 

The goats were visiting from Little Goaty Goat Farm in Coeur d’Alene.

“They’re just really cute and they love to cuddle,” said Ensley LaPierre, a fifth grade student at Betty Kiefer Elementary School, as she bottle-fed a tiny black-and-white goat.

Ensley was one of about 2,000 fifth graders from around the area who converged on the Kootenai County Fairgrounds this week to learn about agriculture during the 2024 Farm to Table event.

“We’re here to teach our young people about agriculture and give them a flavor for farming and ranching,” said Bob Smathers, District 5 manager for the Idaho Farm Bureau. “I think we’ve kind of lost an appreciation for where our food comes from.”

Students examined honey bees and identified the queen, ground wheat into flour, got their hands dirty while gardening, interacted with animals and even rode in wagons pulled by draft horses to get an understanding of how big an acre is. Those were just a few of the lessons taught by dozens of volunteers.

“They’re curious,” said Alexcia Jordan, general manager and CEO of the North Idaho State Fair. “They want to know more. I love seeing these kids so excited to learn something so critical to our lives, especially as we’ve seen less farming and ranching.”

Elsewhere at the fairgrounds, Ainsley Goughnour, Miss Gem State Stampede for 2024, helped teach students about roping animals and bull riding. Some gravitated toward a mechanical bull, while others picked up a lasso.

“As soon as they get the rope in their hands, they want to try it over and over,” Goughnour said with a smile.

Jordan acknowledged rumors that the fairgrounds might relocate, which she said has created uncertainty in the community, including for potential donors.

To quell that uncertainty, she asked Kootenai County commissioners to consider a 30-year lease agreement between the fair board and the county. The proposed lease includes a provision to reserve 7 acres for future expansion of Kootenai County buildings.

“We need assurance that the current location of the fairgrounds will remain our long-term home,” she said.

Jordan said replacing the fairgrounds would cost an estimated $600 million, not including the cost of land.

“I’m not sure why we wouldn’t want to provide that stability and make the investment in the existing infrastructure until that time may come when it does make economic sense to consider moving the fair, but I don’t see that now,” Commissioner Bruce Mattare said last week.

Commissioners are expected to review the proposed lease and call another meeting to discuss it.

In the meantime, Jordan said the fairgrounds play an important role in maintaining and educating the community about North Idaho’s traditions and culture. The centralized location in Coeur d’Alene is what makes it work.

“We are so blessed to be here,” Jordan said as a group of smiling students rumbled past in a horse-drawn wagon. “If we were anywhere else, I don’t think we could serve all students.”

  Local fifth graders took wagon rides at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds as part of the annual Farm to Table event.
  
    Local fifth graders took wagon rides at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds as part of the annual Farm to Table event.