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New State Fair building to help fairgoers understand farming

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Since 98 percent of Americans no longer live on farms today, Indiana soybean farmers are going to bring the farm to the public in a new exhibit building at the 2012 Indiana State Fair.

Recently, Indiana Soybean Alliance farmers-directors and officials from the newly-formed Indiana State Fair Foundation ceremonially broke ground for a 6,000 square foot building called the “Glass Barn,” which will open on Aug. 3, the first day of the 2012 Indiana State Fair.

Designed to immerse visitors into the every-day life of a grain and livestock farm family, the experience will show fairgoers how the high-tech tools people use in their every-day lives also are used to grow corn, soybeans, and livestock.

Nestled on the north side of the fairgrounds’ 250-acre campus, the Glass Barn is a complete contrast to its neighboring exhibit, Pioneer Village, which pays homage to Indiana’s agricultural past.

“People love the farms dotting our rural landscape and we want to invite them to visit our farm families through the use of technology we all use in our daily lives,” Indiana Soybean Alliance Chief Executive Officer Jane Ade Stevens said.

The new exhibit building will be constructed largely of glass and will feature interactive exhibits focusing on new technologies used on today’s farm. A cornerstone of the exhibition will be live video interactions between farm families at their farms and State Fair visitors.

“It’s a top priority for grain farmers to reconnect with consumers,” said ISA President and soybean farmer Kevin Wilson of Walton, Ind. “Since most folks don’t have family members still living on the farm, people don’t realize how farms have changed while the generations of family farmers who run the farms are the same.”

Designed by Jonathan Hess of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects, “The Glass Barn” comes on the heels of the “Year of Soybeans” theme displayed at the Indiana State Fair last August.

“This type of partnership is unprecedented for any fairgrounds in the country,” Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said. “More importantly, it will help us reconnect consumers with today’s family farms and highlight Indiana’s pivotal role in bringing high quality and affordable food to all of us.”

The exhibit will be a featured attraction at the 2012 State Fair and will continue to draw visitors year-round as a key addition to the State Fairgrounds’ agricultural education program called The State’s Largest Classroom. Created in 2006, The State’s Largest Classroom has educated more than 40,000 elementary and middle school aged youth through on-site field trips that meet academic proficiencies.

The Glass Barn will serve as the welcome center for The State’s largest Classroom as well as the home for a distance learning program on farming that will take the farm back out to school classrooms who can’t come to the fairgrounds for programming.

The $2.9 million project is being funded primarily through the soybean checkoff program with contributions from the Indiana Corn Marketing Council.

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