By Charlyn Fargo

Springfield’s planned downtown children’s museum will include a “Farm to Market” exhibit thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Illinois Farm Bureau and 17 county Farm Bureaus.

The agricultural exhibit at the Kidzeum of Health and Science will feature an interactive corn maze and combine.

That donation brings total donations to $5.25 million toward a $6.8 million fundraising goal.

A group of 17 central farm bureaus announced their $50,000 donation recently for a “Farm to Market” exhibit that would walk children through agricultural production from planting to harvest.

Visitors will learn how GPS technology helps farmers operate a combine and monitor crop growth. The exhibit also will teach visitors how to milk a cow and take the bottled milk to market. Various farm safety practices also will be featured.

“The Central Illinois Regional Ad Group is very excited to invest in this latest museum project. The combine exhibit is going to introduce thousands of school children to agriculture in an up close and personal way,” said Sabrina Burkiewicz, IFB’s promotion manager. “Many of our regional ad groups have sponsored museum projects across the state because it’s an excellent way to introduce people to farming and agriculture, and help them understand that it’s the farm families of Illinois who help grow the food they eat every day.”

The Central Illinois Regional Advertising Group includes 17 county Farm Bureaus: Cass-Morgan, Christian, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Ford-Iroquois, Logan, Livingston, Menard, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Sangamon and Shelby.

Sangamon County Farm Bureau manager Jim Birge said the donation was part of a larger effort to educate the public on farming.

“It goes toward getting the word out on agriculture,” said Birge. “We want to help people have a better understanding of agriculture and how it works.”

The “Farm to Market” exhibit would be part of Kidzeum’s overall theme of healthy eating and lifestyles, said Rachel Thomson, president of the Kidzeum board.

“It’ll teach kids about the importance of agriculture,” she said. “We thought it was important to educate them about how food is produced, stored, harvested and distributed.”

The $6.8 million figure represents a slight increase from the original fundraising goal of $6.5 million. That’s because the first figure was based on construction bids, Thomson said.

Construction contracts have not been awarded yet for the conversion of buildings at 412, 414 and 416 E. Adams St. in downtown Springfield. Thomson hopes to award bids in January.

Kidzeum also is awaiting word on $3 million worth of grant applications to private foundations and the state of Illinois.

Exhibit fabrication has begun, said Thomson. Construction, she said, should take eight to ninth months, which would put the museum opening in late 2015 or early 2016.

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