The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will for the first time tell the story of modern Minnesota agriculture in a new farm exhibit opening this month. Supported by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), the “Farm at the Arb” provides the arboretum’s more than 500,000 annual visitors an up close look at how food is grown today.
Nearly 10 years in the making, the new exhibit will honor agriculture’s past, while focusing on the present and future. An iconic red barn that dates back to the 1870s will serve as a gorgeous backdrop, but the focus for visitors will be on the seven different plots surrounding it. Each will feature a different crop grown in Minnesota. Paths will dissect plots of corn, soybeans, wheat and more, allowing visitors to get an up-close look at each.
“One of the more basic opportunities is for visitors to learn what these crops look like,” said Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Director Peter Moe. “Many have driven past corn and soybeans at 55 mph, but don’t really know what each crop looks like.”
Interpretive panels will line the plots that dive into the many different decisions farmers need to make each year based on climate, changing markets and more. For example, visitors will be able to see soil that has been no-tilled, strip-tilled and full-tilled up close, and learn more about the factors that go into choosing each practice.
“We are striving with this exhibit to give people the language and the concepts to understand some of the issues that farmers are facing,” said Sandy Tanck, who is the manager of interpretation and family programs at the Arboretum. “A lot of our visitors might not even know what tillage means, but once they go through the station they can learn about what farmers consider and the trade-offs.”
In additional to conventional agriculture, the “Farm at the Arb” will also feature home-grown crops, as well as crops of the future.
The new exhibit is the largest addition to the Arboretum during Moe and Tanck’s tenure with the Chaska attraction, which dates back 40 years. The expansion to agriculture was aided by the Arboretum being part of the University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The project included Tanck and her staff working directly with faculty in Extension, agronomy and plant genetics, and soil, climate and water. All served as a vital resource to tell the story of how farmers are protecting the soil, promoting water quality and growing more food on less acreage than ever before.
“We are fortunate to have our colleagues because it allows us to be a trusted source of information for people to understand what is science-based discovery as opposed to what is just an emotional feeling they may have,” Moe said.
The arboretum will debut its newest exhibit at the Farm at the Arb Field Field Festival on Sept. 14, which will serve as a celebration of the “Farm at the Arb.” In addition to a first look at the exhibit, the family friendly event will feature agriculture-focused activities, including hands-on opportunities to experience on-farm technology, an up-close look at farm machinery, a variety of tastings of Minnesota-grown crops and more.