Food + Farm Exploration Center opens in central Wisconsin
Wisconsin now has an educational attraction designed to help people understand where their food comes from.
Dick Pavelski tells Brownfield the new Food + Farm Exploration Center in Plover was conceived from frustration. “With people continuing to say I don’t know why we need farmers anymore, we just go to the grocery store for our food, and you hear that once or twice but then it kept showing up repeatedly on social media. I had it repeated by a couple of politicians and I got frustrated and said something needs to be done.”
The Pavelski family operates Heartland Farms, a major potato and vegetable grower in the central sands region. Pavelski says when he was active in farm operations, they started doing school tours to help teach about food and farming. “Our employees love talking about it, showing what they do and talking about what they do, but it got to the point where my partner who was in charge of the field operations said, Dick, I know that this is something we need to do but those guys are supposed to be planting potatoes today and it’s grown to the point where it’s starting to have an impact on our operation.”
So Pavelski mentioned his concept to other area growers, who got involved in planning and fundraising. Worzella Farms donated the ideal site at the edge of Plover along the freeway with easy access to hotels and restaurants.
The Food + Farm Exploration Center has spent four years in the planning and building stages, but Pavelski says they’ve continued to develop educational programs for schools. “I think we’ve been into 51 schools so far, and then also, we’ve got grants available for bringing school trips, you know, day trips. We’ll pay for the transportation, the bus for schools out of Madison or Milwaukee. We do actually have one booked that’s a bus out of Chicago.”
Pavelski says area farmers large and small have been joined by corporate and community partners including the state to raise more than 26-million of the forty-one-million-dollar goal. Phase two construction will start next year, including a greenhouse and an outdoor education area.
The Food + Farm Exploration Center opens to the public Saturday, December 2nd.
Audio: Dick Pavelski talks about how the idea of the Food + Farm Exploration Center blossomed with a lot of help from other farmers, sponsors, and the community with Brownfield’s Larry Lee.