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
“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
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,”
“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.”