Discovery Barn Plans New Activities

discovery days (24)The Sioux Empire Fair celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014, but it was a new exhibit — and the newborn animals inside it — that caught the attention of thousands of fairgoers.

The Pipestone Discovery Barn opened its doors during the 2014 fair to share with visitors the story of animal agriculture and the commitment of farm families to their land and animals.  The 10,000 square foot barn had areas dedicated to pigs, dairy cattle, poultry, soybeans and corn and featured live births of pigs and dairy calves and hatching of chicks throughout the fair. 

In its second year, the Discovery Barn will have even more for fairgoers to see and do.

“The live births are a big attraction for visitors,” said Sylvia Wolters, Director of Public Relations at Pipestone.  “They can also watch the cows being milked in the onsite milking parlor three times a day and help with bottle feeding dairy calves three times per day.”

More than 300,000 people attended the Sioux Empire Fair in 2014, and Discovery Barn organizers estimate that about one-third of fair visitors came through the Discovery Barn during their trip to the fair.

“We were very happy with the attendance and interaction with fair visitors,” said Sylvia.  “That connection with consumers is extremely important.  They are wanting to know more and more about where their food comes from, and don’t have an opportunity to visit a farm or talk to livestock producers.”

The learning opportunities will expand outside the barn this year.  Corn and soybean test plots have been planted and there will be a small farm tractor experience for children.  Inside the barn, there will be expanded information about sustainability and how farmers work to conserve the land and water they are caretakers of.

‘We’re working to expand the displays and activities a little each year,” said Sylvia.

Pipestone lead the project and is responsible for the exhibit at the fair for years to come.

Visitors are encouraged to come calfback multiple times during their day at the fair.  With new animals being born and cared for each day, there is always something new happening in the barn. 

Each day features a crop or species, with special activities for children planned on those days.  From DairyFest to PorkMania, there will be something new for everyone to learn.

The Discovery Stage inside the barn will feature performances three times per day of “FARMily Feud” which will include the audience in answering agriculture-related questions.  The Discovery Stage will also host the 4-H interpretive speaking presentations on Thursday, August 6.

About a dozen volunteers are needed each day to staff activities and answer questions from visitors.  Volunteers include Pipestone employees and shareholders, as well as staff and farmers from all of the other agricultural organizations.  Students from South Dakota State University also volunteer.

“It is a great experience for SDSU students who are preparing for careers in animal agriculture.  It is paramount for their future success to be able to talk to consumers about livestock production and modern agricultural practices,” she said. 

One change that visitors will notice this year was prompted by the outbreak of avian influenza.  As a precautionary measure to control potential transmission of the disease, bird exhibitions have been suspended across the state, so there will not be live poultry or chick hatchings in the Discovery Barn.  Instead, there will be additional display and educational materials about poultry in South Dakota, including biosecurity information and the economic benefits of having poultry production in the state.   

The 2015 Sioux Empire Fair will be held July 31 through August 9.  Watch for updates on activities and photos from this year’s fair on Facebook at  If you are interested in volunteering at the Discovery Barn, contact Molly Peterson at