From the beginning, the center’s goal was simple: To help educate the 98 percent of people who do not work on farms or understand where their food comes from.
“So many people do not know what happens on a modern farm,” says Executive Director Lauren Rose Hofland. “They don’t really know where their food comes from or all of the sustainability initiatives farmers engage in. They are now growing more food using less resources.”
The center opened at the end of July to visitors. At 29,000-square-feet plus a bus tour of a nearby dairy farm, Hofland says “there’s nothing out there like the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center. The center is ideal for everyone to visit since so many of us know so little about where our food comes from.”
Hofland says the goal is to draw 100,000 visitors per year. The center is not only targeting area residents, but people from across Wisconsin and beyond. “Bill Neumann of Neuman Agriprises Inc. was so kind to put a wrap with our message and mission on their trailers. It’s a moving billboard,” Hofland says.
The Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center includes a lot of hands-on learning activities in addition to informational displays and a birthing barn where visitors can watch calves being born.
Bill Aubrey of Bayland Buildings Inc. designed the project and says his favorite part of the center is the birthing barn where live births occur. “It is an experience most people — and especially children — will remember above everything else in the facility,” he says.
There’s also a small café serving fresh-from-Wisconsin food, including Cedar Crest ice cream.
Visitors also can take a bus tour of the neighboring Grotegut Dairy Farm, which is home to 2,700 cows. Hofland says the tour experience is eye-opening for people who have not been on a modern dairy farm.
“They can see all the steps being taken to make sure the farm is operating as sustainably as possible,” she says. “They see how well the animals are cared for, how technology is used, and they can see family members — either on the tour or on an accompanying video. We get across that message that nearly all farms in Wisconsin are family-owned.”
Center organizers worked closely with Bayland Buildings to bring their ideas to life. Jeff Sabel, a project executive with Bayland, says there’s nothing like the Wisconsin Farm Discovery Center in all of Wisconsin.
“It looks like a barn, but it’s not,” he says. “It’s a commercial facility, but there’s also animals involved. The center has been a huge undertaking by a group of passionate people and it’s great to see everything come to fruition.”