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Local organizations make sure Waseca County’s agricultural roots run deep for years to come

Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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WASECA, Minn. (KEYC) - We continue our feature on Waseca County’s agricultural roots by taking a closer look at the programs and the people motivating and teaching younger generations that will help the agricultural roots run deep for years to come.

Waseca County's agricultural roots run deep and many programs and people in the county intend to make sure it stays that way, starting with getting the younger generations involved.

“It’s about the life skills and the leadership skills that youth are learning to become better adults in the future,” said Kate Harrington, interim 4-H Educator in Waseca County.

The University of Minnesota Extension provides agricultural education for the community and youth.

“We have extension offices in all 87 counties across the state and here in Waseca County we are located out at the fairgrounds, we do have a 4-H extension educator on staff as well as administrative staff and nutrition staff,” said University of Minnesota Extension Regional Director Lisa Dierks.

Waseca County 4-H allows youth to flourish in all areas from fashion to livestock projects.

“It’s really geared toward letting youth explore their passions in a hands-on setting, so what we do in 4-H is create opportunities for young people to learn about what their passions are, whether that be in agriculture fashion, crafts and fine arts,” said Harrington.

Waseca County 4-H reaches out to youth in the area through a variety of ways.

“Sometimes it’s through families have been in 4-H before and so youth enter because their parents have done it before, or grandparents,” said Harrington, “we also do outreach through setting up at local schools, different day camps, getting our name out there to invite young people to come in and check us out.”

Another form of community outreach and agriculture education for all ages is the Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center, more commonly known as Farmamerica.

“In a typical year when it is not COVID-19 situations, we usually have about 12,000 folks come through our doors each year and the main goal at Farmamerica is to connect people with that evolving story of agriculture,” said Farmamerica Executive Director Jessica Rollins. “So, what that means is everything from what it was like when the settlers arrived, what it was like before the settlers arrived and what it is like today and be able to compare and contrast how things have changed over the years.”

Farmamerica's outreach extends beyond Waseca County.

“We see people as far west as Sleepy Eye, we’ll have school groups come from that direction, we’ll have people come from as far east as Rochester, as far south as Iowa and then right up to the metro area of the Twin Cities,” said Rollins.

Rollins said that one positive that came out of the coronavirus situation is that they’ve been able to electronically extend their outreach.

“We created virtual field trip experiences for students and in doing that, we’re no longer limited to the driving distance that the bus drivers and the students can handle on a bus that day,” said Rollins, “so we can send that out to everybody throughout the state and students the whole way up to the Canadian border can experience what Minnesota was like, both the past and the present.”

Farmamerica’s goal is to connect people of all ages with not only Waseca County’s agricultural roots, but the state as a whole.

“One thing that we strive to do at Farmamerica is be a nostalgic place for the older generation who may have direct connections to farming and rural life, but we also want to be that connection for the youth who have no experience with rural life except driving by a cornfield on their way to their next destination,” said Rollins.

Farmamerica is open to the public to tour and walk the grounds upon reservation.

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