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New Centre To Connect People With The Farm

From the soil to the supper plate.

A new facility at the University of Manitoba will give non-farmers a better connection with agriculture, food and the people who deal in both.

The building under construction at the university’s Glenlea Research Station will be an interactive interpretive centre for the agri-food industry, with virtual displays and real-live farm animals.

“We’re telling the story of what it takes to go from soil to your supper plate,” said Michael Trevan, dean of the faculty of agricultural and food sciences.

Named the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre, the facility, expected to attract up to 30,000 visitors a year, is slated for completion in late 2010.

Trevan described the building as appearing from the outside like a modern-looking image of a barn. The first thing visitors will encounter on entering is the crop production story.

A large diorama will show wheat growing at various stages. A simulated tractor cab enables people at the controls to drive the vehicle using GPS to fertilize plants.

An internal building models a small traditional barn and the need for biosecurity.

Toward the back of the building, viewing windows will allow visitors to observe a fully functional hog operation with real pigs and real people working with them. Guided tours will describe other aspects of livestock production, such as dairy and beef.

Another section of the facility deals with transportation and food processing. Finally, back near the front of the building is a mini-supermarket with food on the shelves which visitors can run through a scanner. Instead of a price receipt, they get a printout with an analysis of the food content: protein, fat, etc. An exercise bike allows people to see how much work it takes to burn off a potato chip.

An interpretive panel on the way out will have two messages: “If you ate today, please thank a farmer” and, “In the next 40 years, there’ll be another three billion mouths to feed.”

Trevan said the centre’s aim is not necessarily to convert people to modern agricultural methods, but to give them information so they make informed judgments based on facts.

“Once you know what the issues are behind those choices, you will be in a better position to make your own choice.”

The centre is named after Bruce D. Campbell, a donor and retired agribusiness leader. [email protected]

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