WINDSOR — More than 1,200 elementary and middle school students took a break from conventional classes Friday to visit the Northeast Livestock Expo at the Windsor Fairgrounds.

Adults and children from as far away as Cornville packed the fairgrounds, which was filled with farm animals for them to interact with and enjoy.

Event organizer Cindy Kilgore, a livestock specialist at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said farming is a growing industry in Maine, but children barely know what animals live on farms.

“Some kids don’t even know the difference between a cow and horse,” Kilgore said during an interview. “We’re just trying to put animals in front of them that they can touch and see.”

A national agriculture census released in February 2014 showed the number of Maine farms had increased slightly since 2007 — from 8,136 to 8,174 — although nationally the number of working farms decreased by 4 percent.

On Friday, the events in Windsor included activities such as teaching children about the digestive and skeletal systems of cattle and watching a llama go through an obstacle course. Along with that, basic farm tasks, such as shearing sheep, were being performed.

Kilgore highlighted the “kids teaching kids” aspect of the event, at which members of local 4-H clubs held presentations with livestock.

“They are blow-drying the beef calves and shearing their sheep,” Kilgore said. “We have two young ladies who are dairy princesses, with their dairy calves.”

Hilary Ware, owner of Hill and Gully Llamas in Norway, had one of the most popular exhibits, which featured an obstacle course for her llamas. Ware wanted the children attending the event to learn respect for the animals they saw at the event.

“I want them to come away with a very healthy respect for animals, and what they can do,” Ware said. “Even the animals we eat, there are so many things we can do (with them).”

Ware also believes children are becoming disconnected from animals, and she wanted to show that even unfamiliar animals, such as llamas, can be rewarding to interact with.

“Kids are naturally attracted to animals,” Ware said. “Llamas are very gentle. Kids come away knowing how easy they are to handle.”

Lukas Finley, 9, of Windsor, said the best part of the exposition was seeing all the farm animals, but he was skeptical about owning them.

“Mostly, the hamsters and rabbits were my favorite,” Finley said. “I don’t really want them as pets; maybe a Great Dane and a cow.”

The Maine farming community was well-represented at exposition. The event was made possible by the farmers who are looking to build awareness about their craft, all for no fee.

“Everyone here is a volunteer. Not one person gets paid,” Kilgore said. “Some of these people are traveling up to two hours just to present to these kids. They love to do it.”

The event will continue Saturday and Sunday, and admission is free.


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