(The Arb at the Farm was unveiled during a festival event in September.)
Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
With a classic big red barn overlooking the scene, visitors to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s new “Farm at the Arb” exhibit can now begin to better understand how plants, specifically crops like corn, are grown by farmers today.
“As farmers, one of our goals is to help people better understand their food and food production, and the science that’s involved in the decisions we make,” said Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) President Brian Thalmann, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.
MCGA supported the new exhibit that turned an old dairy barn into a state-of-the-art education and exhibition space, and created farm fields with pathways and interpretive signs.
“We will be able to show people that that field out there is something that directly affects us every day,” said Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension. “We consume wheat every single day, but how many people think about that wheat bread and how it comes from that wheat field out there. The toast we have every morning. That hamburger bun. We can make that connection here.”
Part of the exhibit, the “Northern Grain Walk” presents the choices crop producers make every time they plant a seed. For example, in one corner by the corn plot a set of bas-relief tablets presents what the different cultivation techniques look like.
Sue and Matt Spraguer, and Karla and Roger Fuentes, two couples from St. Louis Park were walking the Northern Grain Walk and enjoying the scenery. Members of the Arboretum, the four are among the half million yearly visitors to the 1,200-acre park. School field trips will bring five to eight thousand kids here to learn about their food.
“There are less people now growing up on farms, so to be exposed to this, and to have actual, credible facts about where their food comes from is important,” Karla Fuentes said about the experience of seeing the crops first-hand and reading the interpretive signs.
This is what Tim Kenny, educational director at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, calls ‘walk-by learning,’ which he considers to be a uniquely effective way to absorb information.
“The Arboretum, is ‘the plant place’ for Minnesota,” said Kenny. “The Arboretum is 1,200-plus acres of plant collections, display gardens, and conserved ecosystems. We do have a small home demonstration food garden, but other than that demonstrating how we people grow food was a gap for us. If we are going to be ‘the plant place’ then a larger demonstration space for food plants is a necessity.”
The next phase in the project will be a farmhouse next to the red barn, which will serve as the new home for the University of Minnesota Extension’s Master Gardener program. The diversity of programming will bring lots of people together who all share an interest in how we grow our food.
For more information on “The Farm at the Arb” click here.