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State Fair offers agricultural education and entertainment

By Jenny Kirk

August 23, 2012
Marshall Independent

Countless organizations, like the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Farm Bureau (MFB), and exhibitors, including thousands of 4-H youth, will be joining together today through Labor Day to provide an educational and entertaining agricultural experience for anyone who attends the 2012 Minnesota State Fair.

With four brand-new interactive exhibits presented by MDA this year, fairgoers will be able to dispel the notion that the organization only works with farmers. In fact, MDA has to potential to reach every Minnesotan.

In the Bed Bug Room, families can attempt to find (fake) bed bugs hiding in the room. The newly-learned identification of the pest can help protect families from the growing problem of bed bugs. An opportunity to take a fun bed bug photo is also available.

At the Minnesota Deli, kids and adults can test their food safety inspection skills. They'll also learn how ice cream gets from a dairy farm to the family freezer.

While at Minnesota Grown Family Fun, everyone has a chance to discover what foods are grown in the state, highlighting potential fun at apple orchards, berry farms or pumpkin patches. Children will also have the opportunity to pick magnetic apples from a tree and take photos with a scarecrow.

At the North Star Campground, families can learn to recognize the damage that bugs on Minnesota's "Most Wanted" list do, including gypsy moths and emerald ash borers.

Located in the North Hall of the Agriculture/Horticulture Building, the MDA exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily during the 12-day State Fair stretch.

The AgStar Arena is the Fair's newest building and will be home to horse, cattle, llama, goat and sheep competitions among 4-H, FFA and open-class exhibitors. The arena, complete with great seating and a top-of-the-line sound system, is located on Judson Avenue, west of the Horse Barn.

Since 4-H is a learn-by-doing youth development program, more than 7,000 Minnesota youth will have the opportunity to interact with the public and education fairgoers through 4-H exhibits, demonstrations and performances.

"We've got exhibiters heading up there (Wednesday)," said Jodi Gorres, 4-H coordinator for Lyon County. "They're getting ready for 'Livestock Weekend.'"

Gorres estimates that in addition to about 50 general projects, approximately 71 livestock projects will be showcased from Lyon County 4-Hers this year. A total of eight 4-H clubs, including the Amiret Busy Bees, Coon Creek Willing Workers, Lake Marshall Eagles, Nordland Top Notchers, Stanley Busy Beavers, Swan Lake Skippers, Tracy Comets and Westerheim Flashing Stars, represent Lyon County.

"They get a chance to stay on the State Fairgrounds, so they get an opportunity to meet other youth across Minnesota who are also participating," Gorres said. "It's a unique opportunity to expand their networking within the agricultural community. It's the best of the best being represented throughout each county across Minnesota, so whether they're winning or losing, it's definitely a learning experience."

Families are also encouraged to visit the MFB's "Minnesota Farmers CARE - Animals, Environment, Food, Family - Committed to Agriculture while Respecting the Earth" exhibit.

"Farmers are Committed to Agriculture while Respecting the Earth (CARE). This is demonstrated through our ethical animal care, our environmental stewardship, our work ethic to grow enough food to feed the world and our commitment to our families," MFB President Kevin Paap said in a news release. "We as farmers must engage consumers in our farm and food story, and the Minnesota State Fair is a great place to do so. We are committed to ensuring that what we do today will positively affect future generations."

Visitors are also invited to take a ride on the Ag Cab Lab - Four-wheel Drive Tractor, explore the salad garden or ask questions about agriculture.

Visitors can also seek education and entertainment from other agricultural and animal exhibits that have been State Fair mainstays, including the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, where approximately 200 animals are born during the 12 days of celebration. It's a chance for children and adults to learn about animal agriculture production, veterinary science and the birthing process.

Agrilympics offers a great deal of entertainment with a series of celebrity contests, including expert cowhand, farm animal calling, wool pack-o-rama, butter carving and milking contests.

A variety of horse breeds, sponsored by the Minnesota Horse Expo and the Minnesota Horse Council, are showcased during the fair at Aisle of Breeds exhibit, including Norwegian Fjord, Paso Fino, Percheron, Quarter Horse, American Bashkir Curly, Clydesdale and many more.

Each year, more than 40,000 kids, ages 3-10, get a hands-on experience at the Little Farm Hands exhibit. While at the mock farm, kids can learn first hand how the ag process works, beginning at the farm and ending at the market.



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