The Glass Barn, an agricultural education exhibit, will be housed on the northeast side of the Indiana State Fairgrounds as part of the State’s Largest Classroom. The foundation for the new project already has been laid, and the exhibit is expected to open for the 2013 Indiana State Fair.
The Glass Barn, an agricultural education exhibit, will be housed on the northeast side of the Indiana State Fairgrounds as part of the State’s Largest Classroom. The foundation for the new project already has been laid, and the exhibit is expected to open for the 2013 Indiana State Fair.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Fairgrounds soon will be the site of the Glass Barn, a $2 million project funded by the Indiana Soybean Alliance to showcase agriculture and food production.

The latest addition to a blooming agricultural education complex on the north side of the fairgrounds, the Glass Barn will serve to emphasize the importance of transparency in telling the story of food and agriculture to guests during the Indiana State Fair and year-round.

ISA CEO Jane Stevens said the group worked with other Indiana agricultural organizations and the state soybean board to target the state fair as a good platform to teach the public about modern agriculture.

“The point is to show people what happens on a farm, so the Glass Barn will feature grain, hog, dairy and other livestock operations and their families,” she said.

Once complete, the Glass Barn will sit adjacent to the MacReynolds Barn, the Normandy Barn and the Pioneer Village in the former space of the livestock nursery.

Visitors to the 4,500-square-foot facility, designed by Jonathan Hess of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects, will be able to participate in several interactive exhibits.

We Farm will enable live conversations between fair guests and farmers three times a day using an iPad application, though Stevens said participating farmers could not be confirmed at the time of press.

“We’re using technology that everyone is using at home to create a virtual visit to the farm,” she said.

The U Farm segment simulates the life of a crop farmer, allowing players to make key farm decisions and compete for highest yields and efficiency.

U Eat will attempt to address myths that circulate about agricultural products, including milk, eggs and vegetable oil. Picture U employs a green screen so guests can see themselves standing by a combine.

Construction began on the barn last October, and the new facility will be a featured attraction at the 2013 Indiana State Fair.

The Glass Barn also will be the opening and ending spot for the State’s Largest Classroom, run by the state fair, as part of the long-term goal of building a robust distance learning center devoted to teaching how food is grown, Stevens said.

Created in 2006, the State’s Largest Classroom has educated more than 40,000 elementary and middle school-aged youth through onsite field trips that meet academic proficiencies.

Justin Armstrong, director of advancement for the Indiana State Fair, said the state fair and ISA first put pen to paper on the Glass Barn in March 2011 and look forward to the project launching the fair’s educational programs, which have been an ongoing effort since 2007.

“The exhibits are designed for education during the fair and year-round, so we’re able to teach children on a longer timeframe and during poor weather,” he said. “An essential element to this is distance learning. It opens the doors to the world and allows us to teach to a worldwide audience. The Indiana State Fairgrounds is the perfect place for the 98 percent of people who don’t farm to meet the 2 percent who do.”

Armstrong said he was struck by how technology is empowering people around the world to communicate about hunger and the work of farmers and agriculture. “From your home computer, you can talk to your brother on a mission in Africa, discuss the myths and misunderstandings people have and connect to people growing the food,” he said.

“The best teachers of agriculture are farmers, though they may not always like to admit it, and they do a great job communicating how they grow safe food and work to grow the respect of consumers.”

Armstrong added that while the new exhibit cannot promise to make new believers out of skeptics of agricultural practices, he is confident that the proactive approach will help agriculture educate the public.

“Jane has a phenomenal understanding of that, and the ISA is a great steward of the funds they have and the job and mission they carry out,” he said.

“This building will be a model project for telling farmer’s story. The commodity groups also can look at this as an example of the good things that can happen in a partnership.”

ISA President Kevin Wilson said the Glass Barn will compliment the other educational features on the fairgrounds’ north side.

“We’ll be looking at possibly one million people coming to the state fair, so this is a great opportunity for us as farmers and members to tell the story of agriculture,” he said.

“The design of the building is innovative, with the solar-powered roof going along with the theme of sustainability in agriculture.”