A whole lotta Minnesotans got together—and they learned a bit about the farm

The Great Minnesota Get Together, as our state fair is known, lived up to its moniker with daily attendance records on three of the twelve days of the celebration, which took place August 26 through September 6 this year.

A-maize-ing Corn Day, always the first Friday of the Minnesota State Fair, was one of the record breakers with 132,738 people coming through the gate—this was almost 8,000 more people than came to the fair on A-maize-ing Corn Day in 2009. Overall attendance at the fair approached the record set last year—almost 1.8 million people attended.

“Fine weather and the enduring popularity of deep-fried anything on a stick undoubtedly were the biggest factors, but we were happy to be out there with a full force of volunteers, at spots all over the Fairground, helping people get to know more about the farmers that raise the food that ends up on their tables,” said DeVonna Zeug, a farmer in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “I think we took full advantage of the presence of people from every walk of life, to help them get acquainted with what we do, and how valuable farming is to society.”

The education process starts with the youngest Minnesotans. One of the most popular spots at the fair is a miniaturized, hands-on farm experience called Little Farm Hands.  Kids can handle kids-sized equipment and experience things like feed corn to chickens, climb on hay bales and or visit the tractor-cab simulator, co-sponsored by Minnesota Corn Growers and Minnesota Farm Bureau, where kids can climb up and see the actual cab controls and amenities in a tractor and watch real video of planting and harvesting on a screen where the windshield would be.

Another high profile effort took up a large portion of the Horticulture Building this year. A campaign called ‘Farmers Feed Us’ made its big launch in Minnesota on August 9th, and all during the fair volunteers from Minnesota Corn Growers and many other farm organizations assisted people using computer kiosks to interact with the Farmers  Feed Us campaign. The real buzz around this organization’s launch comes from the offer of a grand-prize drawing—free groceries for a year (a $5,000 dollar value–find out more at www.farmersfeedus.org . Registration for the prize drawing is open until November 9).

FFA built on the Farmers Feed Us campaign with a display at their chapter house (right on the side of the Miracle of Birth Center) that showed how many of the farmers featured on the Farmers Feed Us web site “wore the blue jacket” when they were in high school and college.

“We support Farmers Feed Us both with funds and with manpower,” said Jerry Ploehn, a farmer in Alpha, Minnesota, and chairman of Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. “It’s absolutely vital for us to build bridges to the general public and help them understand the role of independent family farmers in American society. The presentations on the Farmers Feed Us web site are absolutely fantastic. We are especially proud of the video presentation about our own Greg Schwarz—not only is he a corn producer, but he also raises turkeys and he has been involved in farmer-owned ethanol from the beginning—a founding member of Heartland out in Winthrop. When you see how he participates in both farming and value-added agriculture, you can truly see the contributions that agriculture makes to our economy and to our quality of life here in America. ”

Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s newest ambassadors, the MCGA Agvocates, celebrated their first Minnesota State Fair at the Christensen Farms stage, just outside the Miracle of Birth Center. The four college students, who are undergoing leadership training and getting plenty of on-the-job experiences of communicating with the public about farming, spent A-maize-ing Corn Day doing games and quizzing kids to test their knowledge about farming, and specifically about corn. With prizes to give away, and with Corn Guy—the person-size ear of corn mascot of MCGA—many families made a stop at the Christensen Farms stage and learned about all the products and the attributes that make corn the most successful row crop in agricultural history.  And true to their up-to-the-minute communication skills, the Agvocates all used Twitter to send out brief instant messages about the fun and games for families during A-maize-ing Corn Day.

Minnesota Corn Growers Association makes it a point to recognize and support the other facets of agriculture—particularly livestock farming. Feeding animals is still the number one use of corn grown in the United States. MCGA volunteers helped to staff the Moo Booth, where people could learn all about cows and Minnesota’s dairy industry.

“For farming to prosper, all of us farmers, whether we raise food for people, feed or animals, or fiber for textiles and industry, we have to work together and help to reach out to the public and show how each part of agriculture and the businesses that serve us are so important to the well-being of all Minnesotans,” said Zeug. “Without the food, fiber and energy we provide, and the role those products play in our economy, there wouldn’t be a state fair and Minnesota wouldn’t be the great place that it is. We are happy to work hard to maintain and grow farming’s positive role in this great state.”

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