Sustainable Agriculture at the South Florida Fair

Jango Bhadha, Assistant Professor in the Soil and Water Sciences Department, Everglades Research and Education Center, has been involved in organizing a booth at the South Florida Fair in the ‘Discover the Outdoors’ tent. The display is all about sustainable agricultural practices and trying to educate folks about the importance of farming in the Glades area, according to Bhadha. Here is a synopsis of Dr. Bhadha’s experience, from Jango himself.

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By Jango Bhadha

Dr. Bhadha and his colleagues are all smiles at the South Florida Fair.

This year the South Florida Fair is from January 13-29, lasting for 17 days and including three full weekends. Over the past several years, the annual fair has incorporated a theme as a means of stimulating tourism as well as the educational and cultural interest of the residents of Palm Beach County. For instance, “Florida” was featured at the 1998 fair and “Alaska”, “Tales of the American West”, “New England”, “Hollywood”, “Having a Ball”, “Dreams, screams, thrills, chills”, “Party with the Animals”, “Washington D.C.” and “Las Vegas” were showcased in previous fairs. This year South Florida Fair visitors will experience the excitement of one of America’s greatest cities, New Orleans!

Straight from New Orleans’ Mardi Gras World, props, decorations and floats welcome Fairgoers as they enter the main exposition center. Food, music and street performers make New Orleans unique and all of that and more is part of this year’s South Florida Fair. A Mardi Gras Parade takes place daily, as beautiful themed floats ease their way through the Fairgrounds.

Dr. Bhadha instructing a group of students at the fair.

One of the greatest aspects of the annual fair is its agricultural and livestock exhibits which clearly provide the greatest variety of such exhibits anywhere within Palm Beach County. Even though agriculture is such a tremendous part of Palm Beach County’s economic base, many school children have never been exposed to it. However, at the annual South Florida Fair, not only can they see and learn all about agriculture, but can even witness a calf being born, or learn how a dairy is operated. The annual fair attracts over 500,000 people through its turnstiles.

School groups can visit the fair on special dates for an Educational Experience. This year visits consist of guided tours to designated areas, unique demonstrations, and “take back to class” packets to reinforce the field trip experience.

Students listen as Dr. Bhadha presents in the ‘Discover the Outdoors’ tent.

One such demonstration is organized by myself, Dr. Jango Bhadha, representing the University of Florida (IFAS) Soil and Water Sciences Department, Everglades Research and Education Center. The demonstration is housed in ‘Discover the Outdoors’ tent and showcases topics related to the importance of soil conservation and sustainability; aquatic vegetation in Florida water bodies; common insects found in Florida soils; and a myriad of information regarding sugarcane, lettuce, rice, and the vegetables grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Upwards of 120 children daily get a chance to learn about farming practices in South Florida as part of the guided school tours. I think it is a great way for kids to “touch and feel” the different components of farming, ask questions, and learn concepts of sustainable agriculture from a young age. University of Florida faculty, staff and students volunteer their time to help setup the demonstration booth and man it throughout the day. We hope to continue this tradition every year as part of a public outreach effort.