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Ag Cab Lab comes to children's museum in Rochester

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 04/11/2013 9:12 AM

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Visitors to the Minnesota Children's Museum of Rochester can now sit behind the wheel of a tractor and steer their way around a field pulling either a piece of tillage equipment or a planter.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation unveiled the exhibit on March 28 with an open house. In addition to the Ag Cab Lab, as the tractor exhibit is called, there are books on agriculture, toy farm tractors, an interactive kiosk where young people can test their agriculture knowledge and another kiosk that plays agricultural videos.

"I hope it's here in Rochester for a long time, because I think it's really going to be a hit with all the children who come through here," said Duane Alberts, a Pine Island dairy farmer and Minnesota Farm Bureau vice president.

Alberts brought his nieces, ages 6 and 8, with him to the open house. They both had fun driving the tractor, which is a new tractor cab with a steering wheel and all the levers that would be found inside a cab.

The cab is modified so that where the windshield would be there's a large screen TV. Another large-screen TV is where the back window would be.

Children climb into the cab and have 90 seconds once they turn the key to start the motor. They watch the movement of the tractor within the field out the "windshield." Sound effects include the engine running while they work in the field.

The purpose of the exhibit is to share the message of agriculture, Alberts said. The exhibit allows Farm Bureau and its partners to reach people who don't often get out to the farm.

Half the exhibit is for young people; the other half is for their parents. It's not just for non-farmers either, Alberts said. Farmers aren't diversified like they used to be. A dairy producer, he can learn about other commodities raised in Minnesota at the exhibit.

"I hope a lot of farmers bring their children in to see it," he said.

The children's museum has 550 visitors a week and has close to 900 members, said Jeff Beckman, Minnesota Farm Bureau Ag Cab Lab coordinator.

On Wednesday, during the open house, 12 children waited in line to get into the Ag Cab, he said.

The farm exhibit will be on display at the museum for four months. Then, it goes to the Olmsted County Fair Miracle of Birth Center.

One of the kiosks at the museum is the My American Farm kiosk, which was won by Minnesota Farm Bureau member Malissa Fritz of Farmington at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Joint National Leadership and Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Arizona.

The kiosk features educational games from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture's website. The site, resources and kiosk are made possible through the generous support of DuPont Pioneer.

The display also includes a grain table as patrons enter the museum. There, visitors can see wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, oats, cottonseed, wild rice and sugar beets.

The display is made possible through the support of several donors, including Case IH, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Dodge County Farm Bureau, Mower County Farm Bureau, Seneca, SEMA, Minnesota Ag Group and AgStar Financial Services.

At the open house, the AgStar Fund for Rural America presented a $10,000 check to Farm Bureau to assist in the display of the of the educational exhibit in museums across the state. Also, they hope to take the exhibit on the road to other events including county fairs and Ag in the Classroom gatherings.

"AgStar is really proud to promote this effort," said Heather Leiferman, senior director of marketing and public relations for AgStar. It's a great opportunity to spread the word about agriculture.