There’s pride in Iowa ag
DES MOINES – The three As – academics, athletics and arts – that are showcased at the Iowa Hall of Pride in downtown Des Moines have now been joined by a fourth, agriculture.
“Something as simple as corn flowing from a combine auger into a catch wagon at harvest is something that many Iowa kids never get to see,” said Jack Lashier, director of the Iowa Hall of Pride. “Our new ag exhibit helps people experience modern agriculture in a Star Wars technology way.”
This cutting-edged technology includes hands-on, interactive exhibits that allow visitors to virtually ride along in a combine and a tractor on the Nelson farm near Fort Dodge.
A video crew traveled to Webster County in spring 2012 and again in the fall to show how Gary and Karma Nelson, along with their son, Dave, and his wife, Fonda, plant and harvest their crops and deliver them to the grain elevator at Otho.
“It’s important to share the story of agriculture, especially with kids,” said Dave Nelson, 38, an Iowa State University agronomy graduate who worked for Monsanto before returning to the family farm. “We want to highlight the many things that are positive in rural Iowa.”
Bringing dream to life
It took two years to bring this concept to reality, said Lashier. project leaders and supporters raised $335,000 for the Hall of Pride’s ag exhibit at the Hall of Pride. “We saw a need to help tell the story of how technology is transforming Iowa agriculture today and show where it’s likely headed in the future.”
Filled with dozens of hands-on, interactive displays, the ag exhibit shows visitors how a corn plant grows from a small kernel to a mature plant, how a bushel of corn measures up, what the inside of a grain bin looks like, and how it feels to ride along in a tractor with global positioning system technology.
“Even though Iowans live in the heart of farm country, many of them are getting farther removed from the farm,” Lashier said. “As we designed the ag exhibit, the guiding question was, ‘If I were a visitor, what would I like to see?'”
Farm toys depict the evolution of farm equipment through the years, a timeline details key events in Iowa ag history, and a unique display showcases an array of everyday products made from Iowa-grown corn and soybeans. Interactive, 2- to 3-minute videos with Iowa 4-H and FFA members and Iowa State University students highlight the careers available in agriculture today.
“It’s important to show kids that there are many opportunities in agriculture, especially if they like computers,” said Lashier adding the Hall of Pride plans to add exhibits on livestock production. “Thanks to the animated, interactive nature of the ag exhibit, kids don’t just touch the screens and walk away – they watch and learn.”
Connecting city, farm
Since the exhibit opened in December 2012, thousands of people have visited the ag exhibit, including students from the Des Moines metro area. Denise Vogel, who accompanied nearly 225 third- and fourth-graders from Brubaker Elementary School in Des Moines to the Iowa Hall of Pride earlier this year, said her fourth-grade students loved watching the animated exhibit showing how corn grows.
Many were surprised to learn that each corn plant only produces one ear of corn. The kids also enjoyed “riding” a tractor and a combine, thanks to the Modern Farming Simulator.
“These students are far removed from the farm, and most of them have never traveled far outside of Des Moines,” said Vogel. He said many of the children grow up in apartment buildings on the east side of Des Moines. “They loved the ag exhibit, though, and a majority of them specifically mentioned it in their thank-you notes to the Hall of Pride.”
The ag exhibit doesn’t just appeal to younger students, added Marty Sullivan, a physical education teacher at Waukee High School. “The ag exhibit is awesome, because it puts you in the driver’s seat, right in the middle of the field,” said Sullivan, who said he appreciated how one of his special-needs students in a wheelchair could roll up to the “driver’s seat” of the interactive combine. “The exhibit shows the ins and outs of farming, and the students get a lot out of it.”
This feedback inspires Lashier, a Jefferson native. “I really have a love for Iowa, and my expectations for anything at the Iowa Hall of Pride are sky-high.
“This ag exhibit turned out even better than I’d hoped.”