In a society where the there is more confusion about farm reality than ever before, there are many in agriculture trying to do something about it.
When it comes to their agricultural niche of nutrients, AgroLiquid, based in St. Johns, Mich., came up with an innovative and interactive way to educate visitors about the complex realities of what is happening with agricultural nutrients in the soil and water. They call it the IQhub and it is a wing attached to their beautiful world headquarters.
“The goal of the IQhub is to educate the public about agriculture through the eyes of plant nutrition. It has been received quite well in our community and throughout the state. We draw about 12,000 visitors a year in the form of over 100 school, senior citizen, 4-H and FFA groups. We get people from all walks of life that come into our facility that are exposed to agriculture. We get groups from all over with a diverse set of backgrounds,” said Burt Henry, outreach and education manager for AgroLiquid. “We have a chance to bring them up to speed and talk about the topics they want to talk about. That often leads to the environment and water quality. They are very concerned about how agriculture affects the environment and water quality. We take the chance to educate them about how ag is doing many things to improve water quality and keep the way of life that we are used to.”
Henry said they see a wide range of agricultural experiences in the visitors to the IQhub. Farmer customers obviously have a much different knowledge level about plant nutrients than an elementary school group. But, he said, pretty much everyone can at least learn a little something from their visit.
“We see such a wide array of knowledge — and knowledge gaps — out there,” Henry said. “You’d think that people in their 50s or 60s may be more connected to ag and we are finding that a large part of those folks are really disconnected like everyone else.”
Henry feels strongly that those involved in agriculture need to help fill those knowledge gaps with accurate, real-world information because if they don’t, there are plenty of others out there providing their own versions of what is happening with water quality and nutrients from farms.
“Agriculture has to be the group that tells our story and to share with others that we want clean water too,” he said.
The IQhub at AgroLiquid provides information on agricultural history, innovation, and exploration through 23 interactive exhibits chronicling the advancement of agriculture from before the pilgrims set foot in the Americas all the way through the present day.
The 9,500-square-foot ag education destination is complimented by a Kids Korner play area to help the youngest visitors learn about agriculture as well. The IQhub is open to the public and admission is free.
“We have interactive games to help highlight agriculture and agricultural principles, outreach and education for the general public. We are open during the day for anyone to drop in, but probably 80% of our attendance is in events. We have had three senior citizen groups this summer and we get a lot of school groups,” Henry said. “I have had nothing but positive feedback from what we are doing. Then those folks go back and tell other people.”