farmamerica shuttle

The ‌Farmamerica agricultural learning center near Waseca, Minn. held its first public event for 2020 on ‌June‌ ‌26‌. Several families attended Farmamerica's ‌Barnyard‌ ‌Bash -‌ ‌an event which kicked off their‌ ‌Family‌ ‌Farm‌ ‌Night‌ ‌series‌ ‌for‌ ‌this‌ ‌summer.‌ The site's various exhibits were on display as visitors‌ viewed a herd of sheep, ‌wander‌ed ‌through‌ ‌a ‌corn‌ ‌maze,‌ ‌played ‌games‌ and took part in activities including a scavenger hunt.

What a way to start a new job.

When Sami Meyer became program director of Farmamerica last fall, she came on board with many fresh ideas for Farmamerica programing. Looking ahead for innovative ways to give visitors to Farmamerica the best experience, Meyer was excited to plan a variety of programs and events.

Then Covid-19 happened and everything changed. From mid-March until June 10, Farmamerica was closed. “It was difficult those first few months. We were completely shut down,” Meyer said.

According to their website, Farmamerica’s (also known as The Minnesota Agricultural Interpretive Center) mission is to connect people with the ever-evolving world of agriculture. Staying true to that mission, They worked tirelessly to keep connected to their guests — even amid the Covid-19 shutdown.

Farmamerica was closed during their prime field trip season as they usually have 1,500 students from third grade to eighth grade visit during the spring. Meyer and Farmamerica executive director Jessica Rollins decided that if the students couldn’t visit Farmamerica then they would bring Farmamerica to the students through virtual tours they created and made available online. The Center also hosted a virtual Junior Achievement Ag Career Exploration for seventh and eighth graders in May.

Now that Farmamerica is open once again, it’s still not quite business-as-usual. “We are open by reservations only,” Meyer said. Normally, it’s open from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. for tours; but to keep groups small and to have them spaced out properly, tours are now available from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. as well. “We’ve actually had a great response.”

Getting out and exploring all the wide-open spaces Farmamerica has to offer is the perfect way to social distance. “We have 120 acres of fresh air,” Meyer said. The tour group sizes are 10 people maximum.

“We capped our attendance for the majority of events.”

Meyer’s goal is to offer hands-on in-person, engaging experiences with the objective to keep everyone safe. This summer’s events include goat yoga and DIY Down on the Farm make-and-take crafts. Visitors need to pre-register for any event at Farmamerica. Tickets sales are all online.

Being a program director involves having a plan for how programs will be run. Those plans this year feature a lot of different scenarios as the Covid-19 restrictions have changed over the past few months and continue to evolve. What worked last month is completely different than what works this month, and it keeps Meyer on her toes. Her enthusiasm for Farmamerica is evident as is her passion for bringing unique programing and opportunities to Farmamerica visitors. Looking ahead to the fall, Meyer will continue to work on in-person programs and virtual components as well. “We encourage people to plan ahead, check out our website.”

Meyer points out that Farmamerica has increased cleaning and sanitizing. “It’s a safe place,” she said. Enjoy the grounds and bring a lunch. “We have plenty of space for picnics.”

Meyer is thrilled with the excitement visitors have for Farmamerica. She encourages all those who are interested in heading out there to check out to sign-up for tours and events.

The interest in Farmamerica has been great. That fact — along with the safety steps being taken — allows visitors the opportunity to really learn about Minnesota’s rich agriculture history and its future.