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Reicks View Ag Education Center, Howard County Fairgrounds, Cresco Iowa

      The Howard County Agricultural Society (Fair Board) has realized one of its dreams - replacing the swine barn and small show arena that are two of the original fairgrounds buildings from the 1920s, with a state-of-the-livestock building that would also include a new show arena, restrooms and showers. Due to the generousity of area Fair supporters the project was started in 2015. Five outdated buildings were removed after the 2015 Fair to make room for the new Reicks View Ag Education Center, which was completed in time for the 2016 Fair.

      The Center is a 22,900 square foot livestock facility located on the Howard County Fairgrounds in Cresco Iowa. The Center features a modern swine production area, a modern milking parlor, large show arena with A/V and WIFI, and ADA compliant restrooms and showers. The Center also houses dairy, sheep, goats and bottle calves projects of the area 4-H & FFA members during the yearly Mighty Howard County Fair. The Center has a video surveillance system that offers on-line viewing of the activities of the Center, and provides a higher level of security for the Center.

     The swine area of the Center is more than a typical fair building housing pigs during the week of the Fair. It encompasses a unique educational facility that includes the latest technology in swine production, odor control and is environmentally friendly. The swine production area features the newest odor-control devices called ‘air scrubbers’ that contain about 86 percent of the odor. A central ‘controller’ monitors the environment and equipment in the swine production area and sends alerts to members of the Fair Board if it detects issues with the equipment. And members of the Fair Board can log into the ‘controller’ at any time to monitor the equipment and make changes to the systems as needed. The swine area is completely bio-secure area, with a focus on modern practices for health and well-being of the animals. The swine production area of the Center is the first of its kind on a county fairgrounds.      

      One of the main goals with the new swine production area was to give area youth the opportunity to show pigs at the Fair while  assuming the responsibility of hands-on care of their animals and also learning about current swine production. For three months before the Fair, late March to late June, any 4-H & FFA members can raise their pigs in the swine production area of the Center.

   

      To further the educational aspect of the Center several industry experts, Iowa State University Extension and NICC (Northeast Iowa Community College) partnered with the Fair Board to host educational workshops for the youth. Topics included Genetics, Future of Production Agriculture, Health & Nutrition, Marketing, Bookkeeping, Animal Welfare and Show Ring basics.

     


      The Center also features a modern dairy parlor, giving the dairy exhibitors an up to date milking system for their Fair entries in the dairy department. The parlor is designed for easy viewing by fairgoers so the milking process can be viewed during the Fair. Videos relating to the dairy industry are played on a big screen monitor mounted on the outside of the milking parlor, giving fairgoers the opportunity to learn about the dairy industry. An area is set aside in the dairy housing area of the Center for the birthing of dairy calves giving fairgoers an opportunity to be part of this birthing process.

      

      In addition to an opportunity for the area youth, the Center will be used as an educational tool for the general public. During the Fair the swine production area is cleaned and disinfected each morning and opened to the public so they could experience what a modern swine production facility is like. And the Center has hosted several tours of area organizations and school field trips. The school field trips, dubbed 'Kids, Pigs & Parlor Tour', focus on the youth learning about the basics of both swine and dairy animals. They are able to watch cows being milked, learned about dairy cows and where milk comes from, view baby pigs and market-ready pigs, and learn about what pigs eat and how they are taken care of. 

   

      More information and photos of the Ag Education Center can be found on the Fair’s Facebook page. A photo album on the page shows construction activity of the Center and posts sharing the experiences of the public and youth during the time the youth were working with their animals and during the Fair week. Go to www.facebook.com/MHCFair.

       The Howard County Agricultural Society is accepting contributions to the new Ag Education Center. The Society is a non-profit organization in the State of Iowa and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 c3 charitable organization. Gifts, donations and in-kind services to the Society are considered charitable donations and therefore could be tax deductible. Check with your tax preparer.

 
Cresco, Iowa
JUNE 26 - 30, 2019
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