Stuck in a rut? It can happen to even the most active of County Farm Bureaus. You’ve done the same things for a number of years, because the events basically run themselves at this point. This year, we’re encouraging you to take a hard look at your county Program of Work and make an intention effort to consider what you we can do differently in 2018. There are amazing things happening in Farm Bureau all around the country and we want to help bring you a few fresh ideas this year.
We interviewed staff and volunteers from county Farm Bureaus that won the County Activities of Excellence Award from the American Farm Bureau. These awards acknowledge successful county Farm Bureau programs and activities. Our first stop takes us to Mason County, Kentucky and their Traveling Book Barn. Sally Walton, the county Women’s Committee Chair and Board Member, shares with us how they’ve created this event and what they’ve learned along the way.
What is the name of your event and how long has your county Farm Bureau been hosting it?
Our event is the Traveling Book Barn. We built a bookshelf, in the shape of a barn, on wheels, and filled it with books about agriculture that would appeal to children ages Pre-K through 5th grade. Every school year, we contact the schools in our community and set up a schedule to visit each school library for one month. While the book barn is visiting each school, we arrange a day or days to go in and do activities with the students, such as make butter, pumpkin pie in a bag, plant seeds, etc. This is our third year to host the event.
Why did your Farm Bureau begin hosting this event?
We wanted a new project that would increase the Ag Literacy in our community. One of our Women’s Committee members came up with the idea and then one of our Board members drew up the plans and got a local lumber company to build the barn for us.
What was easy about planning this event?
The easy part is the fact that the librarians are so happy to host the book barn every year. We have two Board members who move the barn around for us and we have a core group of volunteers who help with the activities each month.
What was difficult about planning this event?
The only difficult part is coming up with new and varied activities for the students since we see a lot of the same children each year. We vary the schedule so we can do Spring activities one year then Fall activities the next with the same students.
What positive results have you seen from hosting this event?
The most positive result we have seen is the enthusiasm the students and teachers show us when we arrive with the book barn. They can hardly wait for us to get it set up with books so they can look at them. Another positive result is the increased awareness that Farm Bureau has received in the community. People know us as the group with the cute little red barn and call our office asking to schedule the book barn at local events.
Have there been any results or outcomes that you didn’t expect to see?
The Book Barn has given us opportunities to network with other ag organizations such as 4H, FFA, Conservation Dept, Master Gardeners and Homemakers. Each of these groups have donated books to our Book Barn and FFA goes into the schools and reads some of the books to the students during National Ag Week in March. Also, the Public Library has hosted the Book Barn during the summer and they purchased duplicate books for their collection so that patrons would be able to check out an ag book but still leave one in the library on the Book Barn for children to enjoy. This put even more ag books into the hands of children in our community!
How have you changed or adapted the event over the years you’ve been hosting it?
We have increased our book inventory every year and come up with new activities for the students. We would like to add another age group to our inventory and visit the middle school, grades 6 – 8.
What have you and members of your Farm Bureau learned from hosting this event?
We have learned that we have to work together to make this project the success that it is. One person can organize it but it takes many hands to do the activities with the students. Most of our volunteers are grandparents and it has been fun for us to go back into the schools and work with the children. It has taught us to be open to new ideas and new ways to communicate to people in our community.
What advice would you give to a County Farm Bureau who was considering hosting a similar event?
We approached the school librarians to see if this project would be welcomed in their schools. We didn’t want to build the barn and then have it just sit in our office. Once the schools were onboard, we developed a budget of $1000 for the project. We applied for a $500 mini-grant from KYFB and that took care of the construction materials. The lumber company built the barn for us in trade for advertising so that gave our Board the full $1000 to spend on books and supplies. Many books were given to us, or money was donated for books from the other ag agencies in our community. We now have about 120 books in our inventory. We budget $1000 a year for new books, activity supplies, repairs, and replacements. We have a packet of information that we are happy to share with any Farm Bureau who might be interested. It contains construction plans for the barn, materials needed, three activity plans and the book inventory list.
If you’re interested in bringing a Traveling Book Barn to your community, you can contact Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
POW Planning Tip of the Day:
Grow your Event Portfolio—when you see meeting dates and events on paper, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing. Are those events effective? Do you still have the volunteers to run them? Do members like these events? Use your POW to review what has and hasn’t been working for your County Farm Bureau. Maybe it’s as simple as moving an event to a different month. A good rule of thumb is to try one new event every year. If it doesn’t work out, well fine, but at least you tried!
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