Ten years ago, the Ag Learning Center at the Morrison County Fairgrounds was built. Since then, the building has been used to promote different areas of agriculture in Morrison County.
“Fair-goers have been able to learn more about them and have had the opportunity to interact with some of them,” said Diane Colombe, who has organized and represented the Ag Learning Center since 2012.
This year, for the Morrison County Fair, Aug. 8-10, as she won’t be able to attend the fair, she has handed the reins over to Brenda Rudolph, a Little Falls dairy farmer whose passion is to promote agriculture.
While a lot of activities and displays will be similar to what has been promoted in past years, Rudolph has brought a few new attractions.
One of them is Hans, a friendly 1-year-old pig who wanders around their farm yard.
“He runs around the yard as if he thinks he is a dog. He’ll come and sit by you when you’re in the front yard,” she said.
As Rudolph is well-known for her blog and Facebook page, “Raising a Farmer,” her followers have been able to follow Hans and his adventures. He is quite famous among many, she said.
Visitors are welcome to pet Hans and pose with him for photos.
Rudolph said it is unknown at this time how much Hans actually weighs. However, once he arrives to the Fair, he will be weighed, she said.
“He is huge,” she said.
In addition to the promotion of the pork industry, visitors will have the opportunity to pet and snap photos of piglets.
Also at the Ag Learning Center this year, will be Maggie, a Holstein cow made of fiberglass cow. Visitors have the opportunity to milk Maggie by hand to get a realistic feel what it is like to milk a cow.
Another station at the Ag Learning Center are eggs visitors can gather from nesting areas, place them in a basket and then in an egg carton. Through that, visitors are able to get a better visualization of where the eggs they usually see in egg cartons in the store come from chickens.
While it is common sense to many, some people just don’t know, Colombe said.
“It’s part of the from farm to fork process,” she said.
In the past, visitors have been able to see live chickens at the Ag Learning Center. However, the live chickens have since been moved over to the poultry and rabbit barn, Colombe said.
Over the years, the Crow Wing and Morrison County Corn Growers Association have sponsored an interactive display at the Ag Learning Center with a focus on corn.
“The display shows the different ways corn is used, that it is not just used for eating, but also in different industries,” Colombe said.
One example is that parts of corn is used in the manufacturing of plastic containers, spark plugs and more, she said.
Children (and adults) can play with corn at the Ag Learning Center by milling it and then feed it to Maggie.
Visitors have the opportunity to view various crops planted in a display made of plexiglass.
“You can see the roots of the plant in the dirt and what it looks like above the soil,” Colombe said.
Seeds as well as mature plants of various crops will be available.
One station features the My Plate concept of eating healthy from five food groups — vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy.
The My Plate display also identifies where from different food productions originate from, such as milk from cows.
Many children have fun picking apples from the staged apple orchard at the Ag Learning Center.
One enjoyment for children has been the water pump system that shows visitors where water originates from — the ground. Two pumps move the rubber duckies around in the water.
Colombe said in the beginning years of the Ag Learning Center, visitors were able to meet with the dairy princesses who held a coloring contest. That event has since been moved to the dairy barn.
Several fun activities are stationed outside of the Ag Learning Center with farm look-a-like items, such as a silo, barn and grainbin made of wood.
Popular every year is also the round hay bale decorating contest. People can vote for their favorite bale at the Ag Learning Center. The winner will be announced Saturday evening and will be awarded a traveling trophy, Colombe said.
Looking back, Colombe said the Ag Learning Center has been a success and will continue to be.
“People have learned a lot. The stations are good conversation starters too. Some may be there just to play and for the activities, but once the children are there, you can interact with both the parents and the children,” she said.