Since its establishment in 1886, the State Fair of Texas has promoted Texas agriculture and agriculture continues to be a pillar of the State Fair of Texas’ nonprofit mission. We want to take time to acknowledge and celebrate the 50th anniversary of National Ag Day. Initiated in 1973, the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) organized National Ag Day. Per AgDay.org, National Ag Day is, “a time when producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies, and countless others across America gather to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” From the annual Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction raising more money for more kids and helping fund the Big Tex Scholarship Program to Big Tex Urban Farms donating more than one million servings of fresh produce to local organizations. The State Fair of Texas continues its commitment to agriculture. To celebrate National Ag Day, meet three key players who help us succeed in our year-round agricultural efforts.
Daryl Real, Senior Vice President of Agriculture and Livestock, has been part of the State Fair of Texas organization since 2004. Daryl oversees the livestock operations of the Fair and other mission-focused programs including fundraising for the Big Tex Youth Livestock Auction and Scholarship Programs. In addition to his duties at the State Fair, he frequently judges livestock at national, state, and local shows, and stays involved in FFA and 4-H in Denton County. For more information about livestock at the State Fair of Texas, visit BigTex.com/Livestock.
“As the first pillar in our mission statement, agriculture is not only the most basic necessity for a society to thrive, but it is also one of the top-ranking industries in our state,” said Daryl Real, senior vice president of agriculture and livestock for the State Fair of Texas. “Texas ranks #1 in cattle, cotton, goats, hay, horses, mohair, and sheep. Agribusiness employs one out of every seven Texans, and more than 86% of Texas lands are engaged in production agriculture. As a sixth-generation Texan engaged in agriculture, I am proud to continue to promote the business that has been the foundation of the success of our great nation.”
Emma Christensen, Livestock Manager, first experienced the State Fair of Texas as a seasonal team member in 2016. As a South Dakota native, Emma took a leap of faith and made a cross-country move to Texas to join the full-time team. With a niche for event logistics and passion for livestock, Emma has challenged and improved numerous processes during her State Fair tenure. Emma’s current role focuses on all things to do with competitive events; She compiles all the details of hiring judges, enforces show policies, and manages entry data and customer communications in an efficient manner to promote participation, growth, and an excellent exhibitor experience.
“Growing up in a rural community, agriculture has always been part of my identity,” said Emma Christensen, livestock manager for the State Fair of Texas. “I was a livestock show exhibitor in my youth and attribute much of my success to skills learned working with those projects. As I left the showring behind, I found being able to share agriculture through food education very near to my heart. The State Fair’s immense reach allows us to bundle agriculture and education and I can pay opportunities forward to Texas youth involved in showing livestock-the best of both worlds.”
Drew Demler, Director of Horticulture, started his journey with the State Fair of Texas organization in 2011. Drew’s job is to ensure that Big Tex Urban Farms produces fresh greens year-round so the Fair can donate the harvest to the community. In addition to year-round production, during the State Fair of Texas event, the Big Tex Urban Farms Experience presented by Bank of America focuses on educating fairgoers from all walks of life on different practices used for urban farming. In July 2022, under Drew’s leadership, Big Tex Urban Farms was able to achieve its momentous 2018 goal of donating one million servings. For more information on Big Tex Urban Farms, visit BigTex.com/BTUF.
“The Big Tex Urban Farms team is proud to represent agriculture and the State Fair of Texas through our year-round Big Tex Urban Farms initiative,” said Drew Demler, director of horticulture for the State Fair of Texas. “By serving the community through our produce donations, product trials, and our commitment to education, we help bring our organization’s mission statement to life. Though we met our million servings mission last July, we look forward to continuing our efforts and growing our impact.”
On the 50th anniversary of National Ag Day, we enjoy celebrating our agricultural accomplishments of the past; however, we look forward to spreading awareness and enhancing our agricultural programs for the future. Whether you are a livestock or horticulture enthusiast, or simply want to learn more about agriculture, the annual State Fair of Texas has informative opportunities for all ages. During the 24-day run of the State Fair, Big Tex Urban Farms, located on the Midway, provides daily live demos and educational presentations. In addition, you can visit the Big Tex Birthing Barn, attend a Livestock Guided Tour, participate in livestock shows, and much more! Mark your calendars for the 2023 State Fair of Texas, running September 29 to October 22, 2023.