By MEGGIE I. FOSTER
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Putting growers’ dollars to work, the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) recently began construction on a $2.9 million project at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to educate Hoosiers about modern farming practices and production.
“We need to get our message out to the public, because right now they are not hearing the total story about modern agriculture,” said Kevin Wilson, president of the ISA and a grain farmer from Walton.
According to Wilson, the 4,500 square-foot Glass Barn to be situated on the north side of the fairgrounds will be designed specifically with the consuming public in mind. He explained the many windows throughout the structure symbolize the exhibit’s purpose, which is a real look inside Indiana farms through video and real-time interactions with farmers out in the field and in their barns.
“All of the ag groups (in Indiana) put our heads together and asked the same question: How do we help consumers understand how we farm?” said ISA Executive Director Jane Ade Stevens. “This project is a result of some of that brainstorming.
“The point is to show what goes on on the farm. This Glass Barn will highlight the superheroes of farming with features on hog, dairy and grain production.”
The soybean checkoff- and State Fair funded-exhibit to be situated on the north side of the fairgrounds will feature four educational and interactive areas, including WeFarm, UFarm, UEat and PictureU. WeFarm will feature introductory video reels of three farm families (names to be announced) from the hog, dairy and grain sectors of Indiana agriculture.
“During the fair, we will go live to one of three farm operations, with the farmer answering questions live on an inset screen,” said Ade Stevens. “Our hope is to give fairgoers an opportunity to ask questions directly and, in fact, even see the practice in production. We’re pretty excited about this.”
UFarm is an interactive farming game with up to four players. Essentially, according to Ade Stevens, the player will be asked to make decisions that farmers may make to improve yield and production efficiencies. Additionally, the player will be thrown “wild card” scenarios such as a drought or flood. By the end of the game, the most efficient player with the highest yield wins the game.
UEat addresses the myths of food production, including such misunderstood food products as milk, eggs and vegetable oil. Fairgoers in the UEat exhibit will be asked to answer questions about the myths behind many of the food products they use every day, according to Ade Stevens.
Finally, the PictureU area will provide fairgoers with a green screen where they can select the type of farm background they would like and then ISA will take a photo of them. From that point, they can sign up at a kiosk to have the photo emailed to them.
While construction began earlier this year, Ade Stevens intends to begin bringing in exhibits by spring in hopes of being ready to open the doors for fairgoers during next year’s Indiana State Fair in August.
“We’re very much looking forward to a great state fair with this exhibit, as well as the reactions of people going through it,” said Wilson.
Ade Stevens said while the fair will be the primary focus of the Glass Barn in its first year, the long-term goal is to establish it as a robust distance-learning facility within the state fairgrounds. Additionally, the barn will be used throughout the year for the State’s Largest Classroom, an educational program to teach fourth-graders about agriculture and food production in Indiana.
“Our dream would be that this is the world’s largest classroom about modern agriculture in America,” said Ade Stevens.
For more information, visit www.in.gov/statefair or www.indiana