There’s something for everyone at the Missouri State Fair. The award-winning event, held every August, is the largest and longest-running agricultural showcase in Missouri, delivering lots of fun for nearly 115 years. Even today, the fair offers stimulating ways to connect its 350,000 visitors to agriculture.
“Agriculture is big business in Missouri,” says Missouri Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce. “In fact, generating nearly $12 billion annually, it’s the biggest business in the state. We are incredibly proud of our agricultural heritage, from cattle and corn to beans and hogs. While we focus on growing production, we cannot forget about educating consumers and those who are many generations removed from the farm.”
Among the Missouri State Fair’s most recent enhancements are new and improved interactive exhibits that were unveiled in the Agriculture Building in 2015, along with a new dining option featuring Missouri-grown meals, the AgriMissouri Bistro and Market.
“Without the trust and respect of our customers, we as farmers are missing the boat,” Fordyce says. “Through outreach efforts like the Agriculture Building, we aspire to build that trust and strengthen the relationship between farmer and consumer.”
Educational and fun displays in the Agriculture Building, located in the southeast corner of the grounds, catch the eye of fairgoers as they stroll 19,400 square feet, nearly every Missouri agricultural commodity is represented, says Misti Preston, director of strategic initiatives for the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
In the Agriculture Building, children climb on stationary tractors, and fairgoers browse live plants such as corn, soybeans, cotton and rice. Families sit on hay bales and watch an 8-foot “Corny Cob” talk about modern-day agriculture. Visitors try their hands at milking a fake cow and learn about farm safety. Footprints throughout the building lead visitors to Missouri agriculture facts. Looping videos show real Missouri farmers telling their
stories. Consumers interact with farm families and agriculturalists in a setting that welcomes questions about hot topic issues like genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
According to Fordyce, the Missouri State Fair Agriculture Building took the first step in 2016 in transforming into a featured presentation of Missouri’s thriving commodities.
“In today’s society, consumers want to know more about where their food comes from, and we, as representatives of agriculture, want to open up a dialogue about what we do on our farms and how we do it,” he says.
The 2016 fair embraces many of the same and several new interactive displays in the Agriculture Building, such as tractor simulators, and also a grain bin in which fairgoers learn about corn, one of Missouri’s top crops.
Fair Food, Missouri-Style
Across the fairgrounds in the Taylor Woods Youth Building, fairgoers flock to the AgriMissouri Bistro and Market, which combines the fair’s farmers market tradition with a farm-to-table restaurant.
Serving Missouri-grown foods exclusively, the restaurant features salads, wraps, meats, omelets and breakfast burritos prepared from some of the finest ingredients produced on Missouri’s farms. In fact, throughout the duration of the fair, chefs serve foods from more than 100 Missouri farms. The AgriMissouri Bistro and Market sources its goods from nearly 100 Missouri companies including products like salsas, wines, candles and jams.
The fair continues to build on the success of the Agriculture Building and AgriMissouri Bistro, Fordyce says.
“With each fair, we aim to enhance how consumers experience agriculture in a fun and meaningful way.”