New St Louis Ag Exhibit

By Charlyn Fargo

Looking for a great place to teach your children about agriculture? You may want to head to St Louis. The Saint Louis Science Center broke ground recently on its new GROW agriculture exhibit.

The GROW agriculture exhibit is 50,000 square feet and located on the property of the Saint Louis Science Center. The exhibit features zones to help visitors learn about: agriculture, water and weather, plants, modern farming, farm greenhouse work, fermentation, and a DIY farming experience.  The $6 million dollar project is slated to open sometime this summer.

The Agriculture Gallery, as it is called, is hoped to ignite widespread interest in the future of U.S. food supply and inspire the next generation of farmers, scientists, engineers and agriculture professionals. The Agriculture Gallery is a one acre indoor/outdoor space with interactive exhibits and activities, a greenhouse, and classrooms for public programming.

The Science Center’s exhibit development team has defined the Agriculture Gallery as a place to learn that “all of us have a role in the stewardship of our food supply, today and in the future.” There are four content areas that guide the development of exhibits, programming, and visitor experiences.

The goal is to help visitors make the connection of how important U.S. agriculture is in feeding the world’s population. Population estimates project the world’s population will continue to grow at an astounding rate, surpassing 9 billion people by the year 2050, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. There is a global consensus that feeding the world’s population will be Earth’s greatest challenge of the century. While the efforts of today’s agriculture industry play a key role in feeding the world, it is tomorrow’s farmers, scientists, and engineers – today’s youth – who will lead the industry, and through innovation, undertake this challenge, according to the exhibits designers.

Here’s a look at the four content areas and what visitors will see:

Plant and Animal Biology – A growing understanding of plant and animal biology and genetics allows us to efficiently produce our food. Visitors will investigate the soil composition in one cubic foot of dirt and its impact on plant health and productivity, learn about the importance of preserving genetic diversity by taking home and planting seeds of heirloom crops borrowed from the seed library and learn how bees are critical pollinators of crops. They will also engage in hands-on activities to discover how plants function and understand the magic of photosynthesis that makes the production of food possible.

Agriculture – Agriculture is constantly improved by science and technology in order to feed the increasing global population in a sustainable manner. A massive combine harvester will highlight the technologies leading farming into the future. Short videos will show how it and other farming equipment operate. Young visitors will drive mini tractors around a track, familiarizing themselves with the tractor’s functions in agriculture. A conventional farm – rows of growing corn, wheat, and soy – will demonstrate the production of food. Special seasonal programs at the farm will engage visitors in planting, weeding, and harvesting activities.

Agronomics – From a local to a global scale, agronomics is a multifaceted enterprise connecting producers, distributers and consumers. A 400-square-foot giant floor map of Missouri and Illinois will invite visitors to explore the various family farms in the region and track the journey of food from seed, to store, to table. Using a supermarket theme, visitors will experiment with market forces – supply and demand, weather, fuel costs, processing costs, organic and conventional farming – to learn about variations in the cost of food.

Personal Connections – We have personal connections with agriculture through choices we make that impact our health and that of our planet. A DIY farming area will teach visitors how to farm in their backyard and raise chickens, and engage the public in seasonal farming activities. Through educational programs, participants will learn about nutrition, kitchen chemistry and microbiology in food preparation.

Funding for the project came from Ag commodity groups, the Illinois and Missouri farm bureaus, Prairie Farms, the IAA Foundation, 78 county Farm Bureaus and individuals.

Rich Guebert, IFB president, believes the project has a unique ability to help millions of exhibit visitors see beyond the grocery store and learn about where their food comes from.

 

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