The Raising Nebraska exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair will offer a host of new interactive activities during the 2021 fair, which runs from Aug. 27 through Sept. 6 at Fonner Park in Grand Island.
The exhibit, a collaboration among the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nebraska State Fair and Nebraska Department of Agriculture, features 25,000 square feet of exhibition space inside the Nebraska Building. Raising Nebraska, which is open year-round, includes a wide array of immersive, interactive and hands-on activities designed to help visitors better understand the production, conservation, science, technology, business and consumption aspects of Nebraska agriculture.
“We’ve started to dig deeper into the present and future of agriculture in Nebraska and that’s what we’re about,” said Sarah Polak, experience coordinator for Raising Nebraska. “When people come in here and think we’re about agriculture, they don’t expect the technology. They don’t realize that the impact of our research is often felt worldwide.”
New activities for 2021 include a giant scale that translates a visitor’s weight into bushels of grain, number of newborn pigs, gallons of milk or about a dozen other Nebraska agricultural products. Another new activity shows how agricultural exports from Nebraska make their way around the world, while yet another illustrates how corn is used in hundreds of everyday products.
Additionally, popular features from past years will be back in 2021. These include a walkable map of Nebraska, a combine simulator and a variable rate irrigation simulator that allows farmers to control individual sprinkler heads to deliver precise amounts of water to various areas of their fields.
“When it opened at the 2014 Nebraska State Fair, Raising Nebraska set a new standard for agricultural literacy,” said Kathleen Lodl, associate dean of Nebraska Extension. “Just as agricultural producers must keep innovating new ways to feed the world, Raising Nebraska must always evolve and incorporate new ways to tell the story of our food and the families who grow it.”
This year, the Raising Nebraska space will also be the site of dozens of demonstrations, 4-H events and other programming.
Last year, the 4-H fashion shows were moved to the Raising Nebraska space. While this decision was made with social distancing in mind, participants and their families liked the spot so much that it will be the fashion show setting again in 2021, Polak said.
The Raising Nebraska space will also be the setting of a 4-H robotics demonstration, a 4-H film fest, cooking demonstrations with well-known chefs, a presentation from Nebraska’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture on uses for hops other than brewing beer, and more. Altogether, Polak said, Raising Nebraska will offer 85 hours of programming during the 11 days of the fair.
For many fair goers, the Raising Nebraska exhibit has become an annual stop. Since the exhibit first opened in 2014, 1.3 million people from across Nebraska and beyond have visited, and Polak can tell that the activities and interactive displays are making an impression on return visitors.
We’re getting deeper questions now — things like ‘How are drones being used in agriculture?’” she said.
And as agriculture continues to evolve, she said, so too will the Raising Nebraska exhibit.
“Those activities that shed light on the technology, research and precision behind agriculture in Nebraska are the pieces we can and will continue to develop,” she said.
Raising Nebraska is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the Nebraska State Fair, with earlier hours on select days. For a complete schedule, click here.
Sponsors include the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Potato Development Committee, Cargill and the Department of Agricultural Economics.