State Fair Board Gets Update on Nebraska Agriculture Experience

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Members of the Nebraska State Fair Board got a glimpse of an exciting new agricultural literacy experience that will debut at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair.

During its meeting today in Grand Island, the board saw preliminary concept drawings for a 25,000 square foot exhibit called "The Nebraska Agriculture Experience" that will be housed in the new Nebraska Building currently under construction on the fairgrounds.

The Nebraska Agriculture Experience is a collaborative effort between the Nebraska State Fair, which is providing the building; the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the state's commodity groups; and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), which is developing and managing the 25,000 square foot educational display area.

"The focus of this experience is providing visitors with an innovative, interactive view of where Nebraska agriculture is today and where it's headed," said Dr. Chuck Hibberd, dean of extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "This will be a comprehensive look at food production in the state—and how Nebraska is positioned for global leadership in feeding the world."

University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension is taking a lead role on the project in terms of content development, educational delivery and overall concept and design.

While the experience opens during the 2014 State Fair, it will be open year-round. IANR has committed to funding a full-time extension educator to manage the area and coordinate visits from school groups, trade teams, and other visitors throughout the year. Through the use of technology, several components of the experience will be available worldwide—allowing Nebraska agriculture to tell its story outside the walls of the building, Hibberd added.

Key areas of focus will include water management, technology and innovation, animal agriculture, the new bioeconomy, crop production, environmental stewardship, the economic impact of agriculture in Nebraska and consumer-focused information about food production and food safety.

"The emphasis will be on interactive experiences that focus on helping consumers better understand and appreciate the scope and impact of Nebraska agriculture—and how farmers and ranchers are responsibly producing the food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing global population," Hibberd said. "We intend for this experience to talk about what consumers what to know about farming, ranching and food production."

A fundraising goal of $5 million has been set for the project, with just over $1 million of that total targeted to an endowment to cover ongoing maintenance, utilities and other costs. Several contributions or pledges have been received from a number of groups including the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Wheat Board, Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, and the Nebraska Soybean Board.

In addition to the Nebraska Agriculture Experience, the new Nebraska Building will also house the Nebraska State Fair offices and educational displays and exhibits from the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.