By Emily Carlson
Community members can look forward to the annual Visitor’s Day at the University of Minnesota North Central Research and Outreach Center (NCROC) coming up Thursday, Aug. 22 from 3-7 p.m. This year’s event will feature many of the classic activities from former years, as well as many brand new activities for guests to try.
Established in 1896, the NCROC “is a part of a statewide network of research and outreach centers (ROCs) whose collective charter and vision is to conduct broad based, research and education programs in natural resources and agricultural systems that have direct impact on stakeholders and citizens of the region, state, nation and world,” according to NCROC press release.
Visitor’s Day reflects the mission of the organization and the center hopes to engage and educate the community. Vincent Fritz, Director of Operations at NCROC, explained the focus of Visitor’s Day.
“I think really what we are about here is really trying to educate and engage the community in learning more about what the University of Minnesota does, and what our college of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences does, and then, of course, by extension, what the North Central Research & Outreach Center does,” Fritz said. “We are trying to make it a festive thing, but at the same time, hopefully people walk away with a nugget or nuggets of information that they weren’t aware of.”
There will be activities for all ages at Visitor’s Day. Visitors can meet with Itasca County Master Gardeners, University of Minnesota specialists and Extension educators. Wagon tours will be available for guests to learn all about the different research departments at the NCROC, including Beef Research, Agronomy, Community Garden, Horticulture, the Bog, NCROC forests and Wild Rice.
Wagon tours will also lead to a new feature of Visitor’s Day — a corn maze. Additional new activities include a Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, Itasca Waters and the Bell Museum’s Traveling Planetarium ExploraDome. The ExploreDome will have showtimes throughout Visitor’s Day. Tickets are free of charge but are available on a first come, first serve basis. The NCROC hopes to continue partnering with the Bell Museum to bring additional resources such as youth camps and summer opportunities to the area. Kids can also participate in a Passport Game.
Food will be available from Chad’s Meat Wagon, frozen custard samples from Culvers and Boreal Brewers will provide free brew samples.
Fritz is focused on communicating the impact the NCROC has on the community and why people should take an interest in agriculture.
“The literacy related to agriculture and natural resources is troubling to a lot of us,” Fritz said. “We need to make those connections. We need to illustrate to folks why they should care about agriculture and why it is so important to them. Or why they should care about natural resources, our forested area, and how do we best manage that for the future resiliency and sustainability of communities that live within this region?”
Gaining knowledge about agriculture and natural resources will be important as this region begins to deal with the effects of climate change. Fritz commented that changing land values and uses, changes in mining, agriculture and recreation will all present their own challenges. The NCROC hopes to look at ways to respond to these changes, as well as find opportunities that may come to the region due to the changes.
There is no admission fee for Visitor’s Day. The NCROC is located at 1861 East US Highway 169 on the east edge of Grand Rapids. For more information, contact NCROC at 218-327-4490 ext. 2001, visit their website at http://ncroc.cfans.umn.edu or Facebook page at facebook.com/NCROC.