MCGA reaches out at Great Minnesota Get Together

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Friday, August 26 was “A-maize-ing Corn Day” at the Minnesota State Fair, but volunteers and staff from the 6,000-member grassroots Minnesota Corn Growers Association are reaching out to the public all 12 days at Minnesota’s most popular outdoor event.

MCGA Agvocates Leah Joy Johnson and Greg Tusa joined MCGA Outreach and Communications Specialist Jenna Kromann at the Christensen Brothers Stage, right by the Miracle of Birth Center and the FFA State Fair headquarters, to offer games and quizzes throughout the day to educate the public about farming and its products.

“What color is corn?” Johnson asked a young girl who was taking part in the corn plinko game, to win a prize.

“Yellow and green!” the girl replied.

“That’s right! The kernels are yellow and white, and the leaves and stalks are green–go ahead and pick out a prize!” Johnson told the girl, directing her to a table with MCGA water bottles, hacky-sacks, frisbees and other prizes. Another very popular item was a green bead necklace with a toy ear of corn hanging from the end.

Another girl won a prize when she answered a question, true or false, blending ethanol made from corn into gasoline reduces air pollution. She guessed ‘true’ and proceeded to the prize table.

Johnson and Tusa will spend the coming year representing agriculture and informing the public about how farmers work hard to bring a safe, nutritious and abundant supply of food to consumers every day. In exchange, they receive a college scholarship and take part in leadership development and skills building opportunities. MCGA’s third 2011 Agvocate, Kelsey Gunderson, could not take part because she was showing a pig in competitions at the Fair.

Growers from across the state volunteered Saturday at the Moo Booth, one of the most popular attractions at the Fair. The revamped attraction includes a dairy milking parlor, product tastings and giveaways and a series of informative displays. Growers talk about the various parts of a dairy cow’s ration that keep her healthy and producing milk. Farmers talk about the corn, soybeans, hay and other elements of the cow’s diet.

Also new this year at the fair, a second simulator helps kids of all ages–members of the video game generation–to imagine what it’s like working on a farm in the big machinery. MCGA members supported the construction of a tractor simulator, which was installed right inside the Miracle of Birth Center. The simulator was staffed by FFAers who could talk novices through the experience and answer any questions they had about farming. This exhibit joins a combine simulator, that MCGA contributed support for, at the Farm Bureau Building.

One of the most popular attractions in the Horticulture Building was the Farmers Feed Us campaign, where people could sign up to win a year’s supply of groceries (a gift card worth $5,000). Minnesota Department of Agriculture organized and staffed the display. The program is supported by a host of farmer groups, including Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Larger-than-life photo posters of farmers ringed the walls of the Farms Feed Us exhibit, including a picture of MCGA President Greg Schwarz, with his wife Joan, and their children. They farm in Le Sueur, raising corn, soybeans and turkeys.

MCGA also helped reach out and teach the very youngest fair goers about where their food comes from, by supplying corn for chicken feed at the Little Farm Hands at the Fair. This attraction creates a kid-sized, very hands-on, version of a farm, with animals and small plots of crops to help the youngsters realize that food is cultivated, not simply found on a grocery shelf.

“MCGA participation at Minnesota State Fair is a natural, and it’s a win for everyone,” said Schwarz. “People are there with their families and friends, having fun, and we can present them with information, in an entertaining way, that will have a long term affect on their view of agriculture. We reach literally tens of thousands of people at the Fair.”

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