Fort Worth Stock Show

January 31, 2013

Woman has a magic touch when teaching about agriculture

The 20-minute show in Planet Agriculture is a favorite with children visiting the Stock Show.

FORT WORTH -- Like other educators along the children's area in the barns at the Fort Worth Stock Show, Rhonda Ross wants to teach students how agriculture affects their everyday lives.

Her approach, however, sets her apart in one major way: During her 20-minute shows in Planet Agriculture, she uses magic tricks to help drive home her points.

"I realized that the information wasn't being given to kids in a way they could relate to," she said. "The terminology always seemed to be about how to farm. When they leave the building, they forget it."

Ross, of Las Vegas, is no stranger to either farming or show biz.

While she comes from six generations of Iowa farmers, she was professionally performing her comedy juggling act by age 13, studied journalism in college and as a young adult sang the national anthem in venues like Madison Square Garden.

During hours spent on her grandparents' farm she learned the importance of not only living off the land but also being good stewards of it. About seven years ago, she decided to combine her knowledge and talents with the formation of Thank a Farmer, an agriculture awareness group "designed to reintroduce the importance of the American farmer to society through professional and entertaining education programs," according to her website.

During her show, the audience might learn that any product containing glycerin is made of animal fats. That includes lipstick, she tells one group of schoolchildren Thursday morning.

"So you can tell your mom when she puts it on that she is pretty as a pig," Ross says, much to their delight.

She takes her tube of lipstick and begins to juggle it along with a chicken egg and a baseball.

Which one do you want me to toss high in the air, she asks, knowing beforehand what the answer is likely to be.

The egg, a few children call out.

With mock disappointment, she completes the feat, drawing oohs from the crowd.

Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674

Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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