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At the Fair: Field of Dreams exhibit lets kids be the farmer

Field of Dreams takes kids from the farm to the grocery store in this free and fun exhibit at the N.C. State Fair. Best of all, they leave with a healthy snack.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
I've been a fan of Field of Dreams, the exhibit at the N.C. State Fair that takes kids from the farm to the table, since a couple of years after it opened.

That's when I took my older daughter, now 7, to the fair for the first time and we happened upon the domed tent and display where she was able to "pick" crops, "earn" money at a market and "buy" a treat bag at the end that included an apple.

For the rest of the morning, as we walked by the lemonade and fried food stands, she was happy to gnaw on her apple and see the sights from her stroller.

Field of Dreams, now in its eighth year, focuses on the agriculture industry in North Carolina. At the exhibit's entrance next to Dorton Arena, kids ages 12 and under can pick up a basket before a path leads them through a "farm," where they can see everything from sunflower and broccoli to tomatoes and tobacco growing.

A staffer actually plants the crops in the soil in August so they are mature by the time the fair comes around. There's a small collection of chickens to see. And, new this year is a section on the state's aquaculture industry. You can see striped bass, freshwater flounder and prawns.

Kids can fill their basket with a pretend apple from a tree, some fake strawberries and blueberries and a real potato. Then a staffer weighs them and hands them some fake money, which they can spend at the exhibit's grocery store inside the domed tent. That's where they'll pick up a bag that includes a real apple, some pickles and other giveaways.

Also inside the tent, there's a school room where kids can color and enter a coloring contest. T-shirts are awarded every four hours to winners.

While the exhibit is intended for kids 12 and under, all ages enjoy walking through it, Tart tells me.

"It's designed for children, but it's amazing how many adults we educate," he said, shortly after fielding a question from a man about the type of collards growing in the exhibit.

Tart already is making plans for next year, which include expanding the new aquaculture area, which has proved popular.

"We love to hear them say we couldn't wait to get here again," he tells me. "It's been really great."

Field of Dreams is open 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., daily at the fair, which ends on Sunday.

For more about the exhibit, watch my video interview with Tart.

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