President’s Corner

Seed identification quiz at the Minnesota Certified Seed booth, Minnesota State Fair, 2015. Photo: © MCIA.

By Fawad Shah, President/CEO

Twelve Days of Fun

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the oldest traditions in Minnesota and is still thriving.

The history of the Minnesota State Fair dates back to1859, when the inaugural fair was organized by the Minnesota Agricultural Society. The fair’s primary purpose was to champion Minnesota’s agriculture, featuring a diverse range of activities, exhibitions, and events. Today the fair spans twelve days and is often referred to as the “twelve days of fun.” Throughout its evolution, the fair’s location changed, each time highlighting various facets of Minnesota’s agricultural heritage in different cities. In 1885, the fair found a permanent home in Saint Paul when Ramsey County generously donated a 210-acre farm that came to be known as the “fairgrounds.” This marked a significant step in establishing the fair’s lasting presence.

The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association traces its origin back to the Minnesota State Fair where, in 1903, the first organizational meeting of what would become MCIA was held. Serving as the state’s sole seed certifying agency, MCIA engages in a wide range of services, including seed and organic certification and foundation seed production. Collaborating closely with the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Experiment Station, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources and other Minnesota state agencies, MCIA’s programs and services contribute directly to both the state and national economies.

Recognizing the unique opportunity presented by the Minnesota State Fair, the MCIA staff and the MCIA Board of Directors perceives it as an ideal platform to showcase certified seed, raise awareness about MCIA and its offerings, and facilitate educational engagement. At the heart of this effort is the Minnesota Certified Seed booth, which features a display of diverse seed crops alongside educational materials and engaging trivia focused on seeds and agriculture. The most rewarding experience of this endeavor is MCIA’s direct interaction with fair attendees who visit the booth and gain firsthand insight into certified seed and an understanding of the food supply chain.

MCIA’s involvement in the state fair extends further by encouraging growers to submit samples of the certified seed they have produced and conditioned. These samples are part of the certified seed contest. A panel of judges with diverse backgrounds reviews lab test results and visually evaluates the seed samples to determine top honors. MCIA proudly serves as both a member of the judging panel and a sponsor of this competition. Thanks to everyone who submitted samples this year.

Participation in the Minnesota State Fair allows MCIA to enhance its visibility. With approximately 2 million visitors attending the State Fair each year, the event presents a unique opportunity to engage with fairgoers and provide insights into seeds, food production, and agriculture. Overall, it raises awareness about MCIA, its various programs, collaboration with state and regional organizations and its efforts to advance Minnesota’s seed and agricultural industries. For all these reasons, MCIA’s staff and its Board of Directors are dedicated and committed in their support of this great Minnesota tradition.

Minnesota State Fair

Often referred to as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” the annual Minnesota State Fair is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. The fair attracts more than 2 million guests annually.

The State Fair’s mission is to educate and involve our guests by providing a world-class showcase that is innovative, entertaining, and fun. We strive to showcase Minnesota’s finest agriculture, art, and industry and present an unparalleled forum for knowledge and ideas.

Try Your Hand at Crop Art to Go

There are still opportunities to enjoy this year’s Minnesota State Fair, despite the cancellation of most on-site events. One example: the fair’s new Crop Art to Go kits. Minnesota Crop Improvement Association provided crop seeds for these kits, continuing a tradition of more than 100 years of involvement with the fair. Everything needed to create your own work of art is included in the kits: seven varieties of seeds, eight beginner illustrations to use as design patterns, a 5 x 7-inch canvas, glue, paintbrush, toothpicks, a pencil, and directions. To order a Crop Art to Go kit, visit the State Fair’s online shop.

Crop art at the Minnesota State Fair was the inspiration of Orris Shulstad, a former manager of MCIA’s seed laboratory who was also superintendent of the State Fair’s farm crops division. In 1965, Shulstad added crop art to the Certified Seed Show and Field Crop Competition. The annual crop art display remains a popular attraction to this day. Creations from the Crop Art to Go kits can be entered in the 2021 Minnesota State Fair competition.