Publisher's Notebook: Watch out for the bed bugs at the State Fair
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 4:48 AM
Visitors heading to the Minnesota State Fair in the next two weeks probably aren't aware that bed bugs are waiting for them. You'll have to find them, first, and even though it doesn't seem like it would be high on most people's list, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is betting that many people will track down the little critters.
The MDA is hoping that people will make tracks to a bed bug room at the fair set up for visitors to try to find the bed bugs. Don't worry if your kids drag you to the special room, the bed bugs aren't real. The purpose of the exhibit is to help people learn to identify bed bugs and how to protect your family from the growing problem of bed bugs. There will be scientific examples of bed bugs, but also an opportunity to take a fun bed bug photo.
One reason for the display is to show that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture doesn't just work with farmers - that the agency's work touches every Minnesotan.
The bed bug room is part of an adventure guide set up by the MDA that will help visitors through four areas in the new interactive exhibit. The other three may not have the "ew" factor of bed bugs, but they do show that what happens in rural areas affects urban residents. They are Minnesota Grown Family Fun, which displays what foods are grown in the state and how farm tours can enhance knowledge of food; Minnesota Deli, which allows kids and adults to test their food safety inspection skills and what MDA inspectors look for, and the North Star Campground, which shows the damage of gypsy moths and emerald ash borers and how to prevent their spread.
The MDA exhibit is located in the North Hall of the agriculture/horticulture building and will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day of the State Fair.
Featuring bed bugs may seem like an unusual hook to the MDA display, but there has been enormous interest in them over the past few years. There is even a Bed Bug Awareness Week in April, which is timed to coincide with the start of the travel season.
Highlighting how the MDA affects urban residents is also a good idea. The state has become more urban over the past several decades, with political and economic power shifting to metropolitan areas. Yet, our area is still very dependent on agriculture - the market value of agricultural products sold in the last ag census is $223 million in Fillmore County and $91 million in Houston County.
The MDA is also promoting agriculture in other ways, including classroom projects that help students and teachers understand the significant role that agriculture plays in their daily lives. These lessons show how agriculture is much more than growing crops and livestock - it is a business and a way of life.
Bed bugs don't have anything to do with that business or way of life, but if it gets people into the display, they may just learn a little bit more - and gain an appreciation for - what goes on outside the metropolitan areas of Minnesota.