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Minnesota State Fair brings agriculture to nonfarm audience

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota State Fair -- which runs until Sept. 5 in St. Paul -- is many things to many people -- an end-of-summer party, a culinary adventure and, of course, a marvelous venue for people watching.

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota State Fair -- which runs until Sept. 5 in St. Paul -- is many things to many people -- an end-of-summer party, a culinary adventure and, of course, a marvelous venue for people watching.

Between the mini-doughnuts, grandstand shows, and questionable T-shirt choices, the Minnesota State Fair also is a showcase for Minnesota agriculture. And with the increasingly urban and suburban audience drawn to the fair, it's an exciting opportunity to show our nonfarm neighbors what agriculture really is like in the 21st century.

Agriculture in action

From the Moo Booth to the livestock barns to the Miracle of Birth Center, there are many great spaces at the fair to impress and inform people about agriculture. This year, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture once again will partner with farm groups to share the important message of "Farmers Feed US."

In addition to being an important message in its own right, "Farmers Feed US" also happens to be the name of a multistate outreach campaign designed to help today's consumer understand that, even as food production systems change, farm families still share their values. The program puts a human face on agriculture and reminds consumers that their food is grown by families who share a desire for safe food, a clean environment and a strong economy. Large or small, livestock or grain, conventional or organic, Minnesota farmers remain deeply committed to doing what's right for their neighbors, their communities and their customers.

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Family farms

To underscore this message, MDA is using its state fair booth to spotlight selected farm families from around the state. Throughout the 12-day run of the fair, we will host the 17 farm families featured in the Farmers Feed US campaign and in the video tours telling the story of each farm. What's more, when you visit our booth or go to the Farmers Feed US website at www.farmersfeedus .

org/mn, you can watch one or more of the farm family videos and then sign up to win prizes including the grand prize of $5,000 in free groceries. It's a great way to make learning fun -- and maybe even profitable.

I want to thank the farm groups that partnered with MDA to make this important 2011 campaign possible. The list of Farmers Feed US partners includes the Broiler and Egg Association of Minnesota, the Midwest Dairy Association, the Minnesota Beef Council, the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Pork Board, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council and GNP Co.

I'm glad we are able to bring back Farmers Feed US in 2011, because connecting with consumers is so important to the future of Minnesota farmers. People are asking questions about where their food comes from, and they have evolving expectations for how it is grown.

This campaign gives them a chance to get to know our wonderful farm families and to learn more about how they produce our food. I invite everyone to stop by the MDA's fair booth in the Agriculture-Horticulture Building to check out our display, register for a shot at free groceries and maybe even meet the people who make those groceries possible.

Editor's Note: Frederickson is Minnesota's secretary of agriculture.

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