Agriculture, natural resources draw hundreds to Farmington Fair

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Aaron Arsenault washes his hands after petting a stuffed animal during Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday. A hand-washing station sponsored by the Maine Department of Agriculture showed how dirt and germs can linger if hands aren’t washed properly.

A student checks her hands after using the hand-washing station during Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday.

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At the 27th Annual Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday, the Maine Department of Agriculture had a hands-on activity that showed the importance of hand washing. Assistant State Veterinarian Justin Bergeron’s hand glows after coming in contact with an ultra violet reflective substance.

Mike Chase of Farmington shows students a bowl he made from a piece of ash during Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday. He said the design  is the result of the tree being attacked by an emerald ash borer.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon member John Brenner, left, describes how a Secchi disk measures water clarity during Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday.

FARMINGTON — More than 1,000 students, teachers and chaperones from Franklin, Androscoggin, Kennebec and Oxford Counties attended Agricultural Education Day at Farmington Fair on Monday.

The 27th annual day organized by the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District focused on Maine’s natural resources, particularly agriculture, and there were several new features.

“New this year are a hand-washing station and what animals eat,” conservation district Executive Director Rosetta White said. “The dairy goat 4-H club has a display. Rob Taylor’s Envirothon teams are here to promote that district-sponsored program.”

The Maine Department of Agriculture’s hand-washing station was a big draw. Assistant State Veterinarian Justin Bergeron had a student pet a stuffed animal then wash his hands.

“I sprinkled Glo-Germ on the stuffed animal,” Bergeron said. “It’s a powder that is ultraviolet reflective,” Bergeron said.

Students could also check their hands to see if they had gotten them clean.

“I had spots on my hands!” student Jordyn Breton of Spruce Mountain school said after checking them under the ultraviolent light.

Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon team members talked about their display of animal skulls, pelts and water-testing tools. Some team members helped at a tree identification table while others showed students how to make casts of animal prints.

“We want to spread the word about Envirothon, get little kids into it,” team member John Brenner said. “We want to get more people interested in nature.”  

He explained how a Secchi disk is used to measure water clarity.

“Particulate matter in water blocks sunlight, so you can’t see as far down,” he said. “There’s fewer life forms in cold water so you can see further. In warm water there is more life which makes the water cloudier.”

In the food demonstration area, several students showed how applesauce is made. Eighth-grade students from Phillips Elementary School demonstrated cider-making.

Also new was the Maine Warden Service’s trailer, which was filled with antlers, mounted specimens and equipment confiscated from people hunting or fishing illegally.

“These were all killed illegally,” Warden Kris MacCabe told students. “We have two trailers full of our older cases. It’s a huge problem.”

Some of the specimens were confiscated through Operation Game Thief, a private, nonprofit organization that began in 1989 to stop poachers and those who unlawfully introducing nonnative fish species to lakes, ponds and streams in Maine.

In another demonstration, students were shown how an ash tree attacked by emerald ash borers repaired itself. Wood-turner Michael Chase of Farmington used the piece to create a bowl.

Elsewhere, students learned how technology is making it easier to keep birds out of blueberry barrens. A replica of an osprey is suspended on a 20-foot pole with fishing line. The flexible pole moves in the wind making the osprey appear to fly.

“It’s so life-like,” Paul Sweetland of Coastal Blueberry Services in Union said. “The general rule of thumb is one osprey for 10 acres, although more may be needed depending on the area.”

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net 

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