The farm comes to the fair
People have moved farther and farther away from the farm. In fact, Farm Bureau cited that the average American is three generations removed from living on a farm. Farm families are only about 2 percent of the country’s population.
With the growing disconnect from the farm, comes a general lack of knowledge of the agriculture industry.
At the fair, kids will have the opportunity to learn more about what happens on the farm without actually having to step foot on a farm. AgInspire, a nonprofit organization, will be bringing the farm to the fair through an educational and interactive exhibit called Ag Cab Lab.
In the Ag Cab Lab, kids get to have a taste for what it’s like to drive a combine through a simulation game. Sitting in the actual cab of a combine, kids have the opportunity to use a steering wheel, throttle and hydraulics to harvest a crop in two minutes.
“We try to make it as real as possible,” said Jeff Beckman, founder of AgInspire who is also a dairy and crop farmer in Dennison.
While the tractor will be present at the Steele Fair, AgInspire has also a combine cab that it brings to fairs.
There will be three other interactive activities with the exhibit for fairgoers, as they wait for their turn at driving the combine.
As an arcade game, Ethanol Racer lets fairgoers race around a track to collect ethanol cans to highlight how ethanol impacts air quality.
In an interactive display in the shape of a barn, families can learn about eight different crops including the uses of each crop.
iPads will feature four different games including Memory Match, a word scramble, multiple choice questions and MyPlate, which allows users to pick a part of the plate and learn about a specific farm that produces products in that category.
Fairgoers will find local 4-Hers, FFAers and Corn and Soybean Association Members manning the exhibit. Beckman said that he’s found it to be effective to have someone from the area there to answer questions. Also, he likes to use 4-H and FFA members, as interactions at the fair are a way to build public speaking, leadership, critical thinking and listening skills.
In 2000, Beckman created the Ag Cab Lab when a number of his friends who lived in the city were interested in his family’s activities on the farm and wanted to drive the combine.
“My kids love to actually drive things, and to us, it seems like something that everybody gets to do, but we got to realizing that we’re really blessed. Not everyone gets the opportunity to ride in a combine, ride in a tractor,” said Beckman. “So the desire was like if they can’t come to the farm, we bring the farm to them.”
The exhibit’s first home was at the Children’s Museum at Heritage Halls in Owatonna. Farm Bureau eventually took over the exhibit and upgraded it to a stimulator. Two years ago, Beckman founded AgInspire with his family with the goal of keeping the Ag Cab Lab going after Farm Bureau didn’t want to do it anymore.
Since taking over, Beckman added the Ethanol Racer, Crop Barn and iPads. The iPad games are a new feature this year.
Last year, the tractor had over 90,000 riders on the tractor, according to Beckman. He has 29 events in five states scheduled for this year including county and state fairs.
County fairs are a natural place for the exhibit, as fairgoers are looking for things to do while learning and having fun.
He wants fairgoers to be able to connect that the fields they see driving down the road are used for food, feed and fuel. Kids need to understand that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store.