"Plug your nose when you go in!" exclaimed one of more than 1,100 kids who traipsed through Davis High School's livestock lab last week.

The children, from 10 Layton and Kaysville area elementary schools, were guests at Davis High's first "Food for America" Agriculture Awareness Day. The livestock were part of displays representing all aspects of agriculture.Sponsored by the Future Farmers of America and under the direction of agricultural science teacher Greg Egan and FFA chapter president Jerra Petersen, the event offered children a hands-on look at farming.

"Kids love these things, but most of them don't have the opportunity to experience them," Egan said, explaining that the project was beneficial to both viewers and exhibitors.

Egan's on-campus livestock lab - the only one in the district - gives young people "a supervised agriculture experience in raising animals and working at farm-related careers to determine whether or not that's the kind of job they really want."

Three 10th-graders were among the many "ag" students exhibiting animals they had raised. Matt Martin's 750-pound Hereford steer chewed its cud while hundreds of youngsters practicedtheir skills with a curry comb. Reagan Sterling nodded encouragement as the children dug their fingers into the wooly fleece of her Suffolk lamb, and Donna Dotson patiently explained, in answer to a second-grader's question, that her pee-wee-size turkey pullet "has a beak so it can peck food from the ground."

More than just a petting zoo, "Food For America" provided the children with a concentration of information on topics ranging from soil conservation to good nutrition.

USDA soil conservationists Jessie Barrett and Janet Call presented two earth awareness mini-classes. Pouring water down two troughs, one containing rocks and mud, the other planted with grass, Barrett demonstrated the effects of land errosion. Call vividly depicted the fact that only 1/32nd of the Earth's land surface contains workable top soil, by cutting an apple into pieces.

"Dirt," she explained, "is what you get under your fingernails. Top soil is what you grow things in."

Just around the corner in a brightly decorated booth, USU extension agent Janice Thomas presented a short video that zeroed in on the importance of dairy products.

Another exhibitor, veteran farrier Ray Payne, showed the children how a horse is shod, with "Rondo," a big bay quarter horse, patiently lifting his right foreleg to allow the same foot to be dressed dozens of times. When Payne asked for questions at the end of one such demonstration, a little kindergartener wanted to know if the horse was real.

The kids were also treated to a greenhouse tour and a short course in livestock nutrition.

A half-hour later, as the children headed back to their school buses, their noses having become accustomed to barn smells, and their appetites rejuvenated with the promise of chocolate ice cream bars, they voiced a different sentiment.

"I wish we could come here every day," one future Future Farmer of America told his hosts.