LITITZ, Pa. (WHTM) — The Lancaster County Agriculture Council hopes to educate the community about local agriculture by providing opportunities to interact with the industry during the annual Lancaster County Ag Week. The 2021 Ag Week kicked off Thursday with the start of Oregon Dairy’s Ag Dayz at the Maze.

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“Really the focus of the week, if I were to sum it up, is ag literacy,” said Scott Sheely, executive director of the Lancaster County Agriculture Council. The council formed about 10 years ago to support the county’s substantial agriculture industry, to dispel misconceptions about agriculture, and to introduce new generations to the industry.

The council does this through events like Ag Week. Throughout the week, the agriculture council will have booths at the Solanco Fair and Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, Sheely said, but first is a celebration at Oregon Dairy.

Maria Forry’s grandfather bought the Oregon Dairy farm in 1952. Her family started selling milk from their cows to the neighborhood in the 70s, and then shortly after that, they opened a grocery store on the farm. Today the farm hosts a restaurant, an ice cream shop, a playground, and a corn maze in addition to their grocery store and dairy operations.

Forry grew up on the farm and now helps manage some of its events, like Ag Dayz at the Maze which kicks off Lancaster County Ag Week.

“It’s a celebration of our agriculture that happens here in Lancaster County, a very rich heritage of agriculture, lots of animals, lots of crops around the county that we’re celebrating this week,” Forry said.

During Ag Dayz at the Maze, guests can explore the corn maze, check out massive farm equipment, meet some animals, try Oregon Dairy’s milk and ice cream, and learn about various aspects of Lancaster County agriculture.

Education is a main goal of the week, but, Sheely said, it’s about more than that, too. “Look at those kids on the tractors, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. Look at the kids petting the animals, that’s what it’s all about. And people have a good feeling about agriculture when they come to this event. That’s what we want,” Sheely said.

Kids meet a cow at Farm Dayz at the Maze

Another goal of the agriculture council is to help address a workforce shortage that the industry has been experiencing for years, Sheely said. One aspect of this is providing pathways into agriculture for new generations.

Agriculture is more than just planting seeds and picking crops, Sheely said. Bankers are needed to manage insurance for ag workers. Individuals versed in STEM are needed to develop farm equipment.

Sheely hopes events like Ag Dayz can introduce people to the broad realm of agriculture and maybe bring some new people into the industry.

“When you talk about an event like this, if that little kid over there — because he came to Oregon Dairy today — someday decides that he would like to be a farmer or would like to drive a tractor or fix a tractor, that’s a worthy investment then,” Sheely said.

Kids climb on a tractor during Farm Dayz at the Maze

Ag Dayz takes place from 10-6 on Thursday, Sept. 9, through Saturday, Sept. 11. More information can be found online here.