Annual SROC Open House makes learning fun

WASECA, Minn. - Four-year-old Bailey Davis took control of the corn box, tossing corn into the area and inviting another girl to join her in the corn.

Annual SROC Open House makes learning fun
Bailey Davis, 4, who lives near Meriden, loved playing in the corn box, a new item this year. The box was moved from the grass to the gravel by the shed because just more than an inch of rain fell the day before.

WASECA, Minn. - Four-year-old Bailey Davis took control of the corn box, tossing corn into the area and inviting another girl to join her in the corn.

Her father, Jeremiah, looked on with a smile on his face.

"She has a sandbox at home, but I think I'm going to fill it up with corn," he said, as he watched her roll in the corn and fill a toy wagon with kernels.

The corn box and a bean box just steps away were two of the new things at the 9th annual Open House at the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca. An estimated crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 filled the campus for the evening event, said Jeanette Williams, SROC community program associate and event coordinator.

Also new this year was an auto steer demonstration, Minnesota Farm Bureau's tractor simulator and an elk display that included a bull elk and antlers. Minnesota River Valley master gardeners had a very large presence, Williams said.


Next year, they hope to have turkeys from their sister station in Rosemount and also feature another form of alternative livestock production, she said.

The animals were a big hit for Chloe Ingvaldson, 4, of Owatonna, said her mother, Christina.

It was their first time at the open house and they decided to come because they heard it was a free event featuring all sorts of fun things to do, plus animals to pet.

"She is having an awesome time," Christina said, as Chloe used an eye dropper to siphon water taken from Clear Lake into a petri dish to check for insects.

Likewise, Noah Flom, 7, of Waseca, was busy checking out all the exhibits. He won second place in his age group in the pedal pull, petted the calf and headed over to make projects under the guidance of 4-H volunteers.

"We've always heard about it, we decided to come out and check it out," said Noah's father, Trent. "We'll definitely be back again next year."

He was impressed by the number and diversity of exhibits and the variety of interactive children's exhibits.

The purpose of the open house is to showcase what the University of Minnesota is doing, especially in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, Williams said.


"We want people to learn about what it is we do here at the university," she said.

But the event also draws in the community. The Waseca Medical Center provided health screening and the Chamber of Commerce served beverages.

Several members of the community also show their support by volunteering.

"We rely a lot on volunteers," Williams said. "They are wonderful, they come through for us every year."

Volunteers include SROC advisory committee members, the Waseca FFA, master gardener groups, faculty and staff from regional Extension offices in Mankato and Rochester, folks from the regional center in Rosemount; and spouses, children and friends of SROC staff.

"We beg, borrow and steal wherever we get help from. It takes a lot of people to throw a party like this," Williams said. "Just our staff could not put on an event of this proportion."

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