Connecting consumers with the farmers who raise their food is the goal of an ambitious new exhibit making its debut at this year's fair.
Kathleen Lodl of UNL Extension said, "More and more people want to know whose raising their food and these are real people raising their food."
They're calling it "Raising Nebraska: Your food and the families who grow it."
They've done consumer testing and people like the name more than the working title they had used, Nebraska Agriculture Experience.
On the other side of the new Nebraska Building will be the Game and Parks exhibit. Both are a departure from the days of handing out brochures from a booth.
State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott said, "Walking around and looking at things is a thing of the past. These two exhibits, there's a lot of involvement, things families can do during the fair."
The 25,000 square foot ag exhibit will feature a virtual combine ride and a theater in a grain bin.
McDermott said, "This quality of an exhibit is going to be unique to the Nebraska State Fair. I don't know there is anything as interesting, as fascinating as exciting as what we'll have this year at Nebraska State Fair."
Lodl said the "raising" theme will extend beyond raising corn and cattle.
She said, "Raising Nebraska's also about young people. We want to raise the next generation of Nebraskans, people producing our food."
Raising Nebraska provides a great deal of flexibility in terms of the content, messaging and experiences that people will have inside the exhibit, according to Dr. Charles Hibberd, dean of extension at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln.
"First, it's about what Nebraska does best—raising high quality crops and livestock to provide food, feed, fuel and fiber for the world," Dr. Hibberd said. "It also underscores the fact that agriculture and food production raise the state's economy from border to border and raise the profile of Nebraska on a global scale."
Hibberd noted that Raising Nebraska also refers to raising healthy families and raising overall awareness among consumers about where their food comes from.
"We want consumers to meet the people who grow the food we all eat," he added. "There are plenty of opportunities in this exhibit for one-on-one conversations between farmers, ranchers and consumers."
Exhibits are coming together off–site, while construction continues on the grounds, to be unveiled at next month's fair.
"Can't wait for everybody to come to the fair we're going to be a prime part of the opening celebration, come out, take a look," Lodl said.
It will features a full-sized pivot irrigation system, a video theater enclosed in a grain bin, a 50-foot-long floor map of Nebraska, a virtual combine ride, an interactive dinner table and other educational experiences.
While Raising Nebraska will debut at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair, it will be available throughout the year for school groups, trade teams, and other visitors by appointment. A full-time UNL extension educator will be on-site year-round to manage the exhibit and work with visiting groups.
Raising Nebraska is a collaborative effort between the Nebraska State Fair, which is providing the building; the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the state's commodity groups; and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), which is developing and managing the 25,000 square foot educational experience area.