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"Thank a farmer" are magic words

There's no "abracadabra"--at this magic show, the magic words are, "Thank a Farmer."

The Ag Magic Show, at the Iowa State Fair, was started by Rhonda Renee Ross, in hopes of educating and inspiring people to know how vital agriculture and farmers are to the world.

She starts off her show by telling the kids the magic words are not "abracadabra," but instead, "Thank a farmer."

"By getting the kids to say, 'Thank a Farmer!' out loud, they start to understand the importance of farmers in their everyday lives," she said.

Ross is from a six-generation farming family in southwestern Iowa; however, she grew up in Chicago, the first of her family to not grow up on the farm. Since her roots grow deep in the farming way of life, she understands the importance of educating urban folks about agriculture.

"When I was growing up in Chicago, I could see that kids didn't know where things came from," she said. "They thought that food, clothing, school supplies, and sporting supplies all just came from a store. That hasn't changed since the time I was a child. Now, as urban sprawl slowly encompasses our nation's farmland, there is an urgent need for kids to know where the food they eat and the clothes they wear really come from. Crucial farm legislation will be in the hands of these very kids in the near future."

Her first-hand knowledge of farming and city living makes her program more effective than some other agriculture programs.

Ross attended Iowa State University in the mid-1980s, during the farm crisis. She saw how many of her friends, as well as her family, suffered during these hard times.

"I tell kids farming isn't just a job, it's your life. A farmer can't just go to another city and start over like their city parents can. Farmers need land that can produce, they need tractors that, in most cases, cost more than a suburban home and, most importantly, they need understanding in the importance of the job they do," she said.

Rhonda works with local and national agriculture organizations to tailor the show for specific areas and educates kids about what is going on in their own communities.

During her stint at the Iowa State Fair, in August, she presented four shows daily and told attendees about how Iowa is number one in pork production, red meat production, egg production, corn production and soybean production in the United States, and how that affects the daily lives of people all around the world.

During the show, she interacts with the children in the audience and informs them as well. Juggling an egg, a baseball and lipstick, she informs the crowd of how each is related to agriculture. The egg being quite obvious, followed by the baseball, which is completely made from farming products.

"The inner core contains rubber which is made from stearic acid which comes from cows. Wrapped around the rubber is cotton string. Without a cotton farmer, no cotton string. Wrapped around the cotton is wool from a sheep. Without a sheep farmer, no wool. Wrapped around the wool is cowhide from a cow," she said.

"One cowhide can make over 144 baseballs. Over 600,000 baseballs are used during a major league baseball season. Everything in a baseball comes from a farm and a farmer. No farmers, no baseball!" she added.

Since most people are familiar with fast food brands, she pointed out that more than 80 percent of turkey in Subway sandwiches comes from Iowa turkey farmers. And a McDonald's Happy Meal is filled with farmers--beef, wheat, potato, tomato, and tree farmers.

To add humor to her show, Ross told the kids what a farmer has to do with lipstick: "The thing that makes lipstick all creamy and messy is an ingredient called glycerin and glycerin is made from the fat of cows, sheep and my favorite...pigs! So the next time your mom, sister or grandma is putting on lipstick, you can tell her she is pretty as a pig," she laughed.

Ross is an experienced entertainer, performing around the world in a mother/daughter team of Rice & Renee. They have performed from Madison Square Gardens to television shows like "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

"I combine all my entertainment experience and skills into a show that is fun for all ages. It isn't about the tricks as much as the entertaining elements that get your message across," she said.

Ross is working on getting a national day to "Thank a Farmer." "I would like to see the state of Iowa, where my family has farmed for over five generations, be the first to adopt it," she said.

The Ag Magic Show will be making stops at Ak-Sar-Ben, in Omaha, Neb.; the Texas State Fair, in Dallas, Texas; the Heart of Texas Fair, in Waco, Texas; and the American Royal, in Kansas City, Mo. in the next six weeks

For more information on the Ag Magic Show or Thank a Farmer, visit www.agmagicshow.com or www.thankafarmer.com.

Jennifer Bremer can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by e-mail at jbremer@hpj.com.

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