GRAND ISLAND — As a youth, Elizabeth “Beth” (Maricle) Janning most often could be found in the milking barn on the farm south of Albion that has been in her family since 1871.
“That’s where I spent lot of hours growing up,” she said.
The 2002 Boone Central High School graduate also did fieldwork and competed as a 4-H and FFA member. Agriculture was — and still is — her life.
On Saturday, Janning will complete the first month of what she describes as her dream job. She is in charge of the Raising Nebraska agricultural exhibit that made its debut with the opening of the 145th annual Nebraska State Fair here on Aug. 22.
The 25,000-square-foot interactive exhibit is located in the newly completed Nebraska Building on the northwest edge of Fonner Park, home of the Nebraska State Fair since its relocation from Lincoln in 2010.
The exhibit, which is being called one of the nation’s leading agricultural literacy experiences, will be open through the remainder of the fair, which concludes Monday, Sept. 1.
Raising Nebraska is the result of a partnership among the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Nebraska State Fair and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
By taking in the various aspects of the exhibit, visitors can gain a better understanding and appreciation of the advancements, impact and global leadership of the Cornhusker State’s agricultural industry. The focus is not only on where Nebraska agriculture is today but also its future.
Janning said her 4-H and FFA careers, as well as her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science, provided a solid foundation for her current role. Janning is one of four children of Keith and Mary Ann Maricle of rural Albion.
The Hastings resident said she professes “a love and passion about animal agriculture and genetics.” A career in genetics was her initial career goal.
Janning is a science and agricultural literacy educator with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. She previously spent six years as the 4-H youth development extension educator based in the Adams County extension office in Hastings.
Janning said the Raising Nebraska exhibit has drawn “an unbelievable response from everyone.”
“People love the Grain Bin Theater,” Janning said.
Visitors can sit in an actual grain bin and watch a six-minute video produced by the state Department of Agriculture about the state’s ag industry.
“It does a great job of covering the entire state of Nebraska,” said Janning of the video that debuted on Facebook several months ago. Many viewers, she said, recognize someone in the video that shares ag facts.
A crowd favorite for all ages is the 50-foot Walkable Map with all 93 Nebraska counties outlined. By stepping on the five currently featured counties of Knox, Dodge, Grant, Harlan and Dawes, a person can learn ag facts specific to that county.
Raising Nebraska also includes an actual center pivot — not the large models found irrigating corn and soybean fields — but a smaller version used in sugar cane fields and orchards.
Visitors can also drive a simulated combine and “harvest” corn. “You really feel like you’re in that combine,” Janning said.
In the Agri-House, visitors can “build” a meal on an interactive digital dining table and learn about the various ag products making up that meal. The activity also focuses on food security and that on average 10-15 percent of Nebraskans don’t know where their next meal is coming from, she said.
Janning will staff the Raising Nebraska exhibit year-round. She encourages teachers, youth organizations and interested adult groups to make field trip and tour appointments.
Through the Raising Nebraska exhibit, as well as various other ag literacy programs underway across the state, Janning said, “I think agriculture will be in a better place, at least Nebraska agriculture. It will be exciting to see what we can accomplish.”