As Raising Nebraska prepares for its fifth anniversary this year, members of the Nebraska Corn Board had the opportunity Wednesday to visit the facility at Fonner Park.
Raising Nebraska is a hands-on, interactive experience where visitors have an opportunity to learn about the state’s agricultural industry and the farmers and ag-related businesses who make it possible.
According to Sarah Polak, Rising Nebraska experience coordinator, in the five years the facility has been open to the public, it has attracted more than 1 million visitors from not only the state, but throughout the country and the world.
When visitors experience Raising Nebraska, which is located in the Nebraska Building at Fonner Park, they can learn about the state’s corn industry and the billions of dollars it contributes annually to the state’s economy.
Among those on the tour was Dave Bruntz of Friend, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board.
Bruntz said that more than five years ago when Raising Nebraska was in the exploratory stage, the Nebraska Corn Board was approached to be one of the contributors to the facility.
“We were interested in helping with that,” he said. “As they were developing this Raising Nebraska concept, we got on board with an investment.”
During the Nebraska State Fair, which is celebrating its 10th year in Grand Island this year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the Raising Nebraska venue. Raising Nebraska is a year-round facility that draws tourists, students and others for tours.
“This building is used quite a bit as many elementary school students visit here, along with trade representatives from around the world to learn about agriculture in Nebraska,” Bruntz said.
Corn is the state’s dominant crop. This year, Nebraska farmers produced 1.8 billion bushels, which is third-most in the nation. Each year, more than 700 million bushels of that corn goes into producing more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol. A byproduct of ethanol production is dry distillers grain, which is an excellent nutritional supplement to livestock feed. Both ethanol and dry distillers grain are also major export products that go throughout the world.
“A lot of people think that bushel of corn disappears when it goes to an ethanol plant, but one-third of every bushel comes back as dry distillers grain for our livestock industry,” Bruntz said. “There are a lot of products that come from a bushel of corn from an ethanol plant.”
He said with each passing generation, society becomes more urbanized and many families lose touch with their family roots.
“Raising Nebraska allows us to do a small part in educating people about agriculture,” Bruntz said.
Polak said Nebraska corn farmers were among the earliest contributors to the educational venue.
“They (Nebraska corn farmers) have been great supporters,” she said. “They, like many of our commodity groups, really believe in the power of education and helping people understand where their food comes from.”
Polak said the corn growers have helped sponsor a number of the interactive educational displays where the public can learn more about corn production, such as GMO varieties of corn, which make up about 95 percent of the corn grown in Nebraska.
Another display the corn farmers sponsor tells the public about many of the non-food products that are derived from corn, such as plastics.
Prominently displayed in the Raising Nebraska venue is a giant ear of corn that tells visitors about the importance of corn in Nebraska.
Polak said as they celebrate Raising Nebraska’s fifth anniversary, this is also the 150th anniversary of both the University of Nebraska Land Grant College in Lincoln and the Nebraska State Fair.
In a preview of what is ahead this year for Raising Nebraska on its fifth anniversary, she said there will be an exhibit focusing on corn genetics. It will be under the center pivot in the outdoor display of the facility.
That exhibit will explore the role the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has played in helping Nebraska and U.S. farmers become the world’s powerhouse in corn production.
Polak said it will show the evolution of corn throughout Nebraska’s history and the contributions made by UNL in the research and development of corn genetics to produce varieties of corn throughout the diverse climate and terrain of Nebraska.
“That research has helped us to feed the world more efficiently,” Polak said.
To learn more about Raising Nebraska, visit its website at www.raisingnebraska.unl.edu or its Facebook page.