Your Compeer Office
Blue Earth, MN

1700 Gian Drive, PO Bbox 220
Blue Earth, MN 65013
[email protected]

Compeer Client Services

Exploration Center Hosts Agricultural Innovation & Education

In Wisconsin’s heartland, where vast fields of potatoes and vegetables spread as far as the eye can see, the Food + Farm Exploration Center has emerged as a beacon of agricultural innovation and sustainability. This visionary project is the brainchild of the Farming for the Future Foundation (FFTFF), established by the Pavelski family, who are Compeer Financial clients and owners of Heartland Farms in Hancock, Wis. Their mission is to bridge the gap between consumers and the agricultural world by educating current and future generations about the intricacies of farming and sustainable practices.

The Food + Farm Exploration Center, located in Plover, Wis., opened its doors to the public on Dec. 2, 2023. The 50,000-square-foot facility, nestled on 24 acres, offers visitors a unique blend of ag-related science, technology and hands-on experiences. With over 60 interactive exhibits, demonstration farm fields, meeting spaces, café and gift shop, the center aims to demystify agriculture for all who enter. Notably, the center features the world’s largest potato masher, proudly standing 39 feet tall.

“FFTFF’s primary mission is to educate current and future generations about agricultural innovation and sustainability,” said Andy Reitz, executive director of the Food + Farm Exploration Center. “The purpose is to connect the disconnect around the general public’s understanding of where our food comes from, what goes into it, the people who make it happen, the technology behind it and how it gets from field to store to table. The center is a manifestation of that vision.”


Plover provides the perfect backdrop for the Food + Farm Exploration Center. Positioned halfway between Chicago and Minneapolis, the center is a pivotal destination along the bustling Interstate 39 corridor. Its strategic location has attracted numerous meetings, conventions and trade shows, fostering a dynamic connection between the local community and the broader ag industry.

More than just a tourist attraction, the exploration center is a hub for community engagement, welcoming learners of all ages to participate in various activities. It serves as a space for learning, playing, exploring and discovering the wonders of agriculture. Exhibits take visitors through the world of farming, featuring hands-on learning displays demonstrating everything from irrigation to processing to grocery shopping. Tractor simulators show the power of GPS, sandboxes teach visitors about topography and interactive maps show where certain crops are grown throughout Wisconsin.

“Our core is built around education,” explained Reitz. “Whether inside our building or through our outreach programming, everything is centered on education, and everything we do supports that initiative. It’s all about closing that gap in people’s knowledge of where their food comes from.”

The Food + Farm Exploration Center has former teachers on staff who develop agricultural education programs for kids and adults. One popular program, Tot Time, provides an environment for toddlers and their parents to experience age-appropriate play with an agricultural focus. The center’s outreach programming allows its educators to visit area schools for pre-visits with students before a field trip to the center or a separate lesson altogether.


The center’s vision took shape in October 2019, followed by an extensive fundraising campaign and a groundbreaking ceremony in April 2022. The total project cost amounted to an impressive $41 million, showcasing the commitment of FFTFF to bring this transformative vision to life.

FFTFF is a nonprofit organization that relies on public support for annual needs and capital projects. The Compeer Fund for Rural America, recognizing the monumental impact of the Food + Farm Exploration Center, contributed a signature gift of $750,000. This donation came with naming rights to the Compeer Financial Observation Deck, promising visitors a unique vantage point overlooking acres dedicated to agricultural production and mini-pivot displays. This visual spectacle mirrors Compeer’s commitment to “watching over” agriculture and rural communities.

Since its opening, the Food + Farm Exploration Center has left a deep-rooted mark on the community and beyond. Hosting events like U-Pick vegetable days, welcoming over 7,300 ticketed guests and collaborating with educational institutions and organizations like Mid-State Technical College, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Girl Scouts and the Boys & Girls Club of America, the center is fulfilling its mission to educate, engage and inspire.

As the exploration continues, the Food + Farm Exploration Center stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation and a shared commitment to the future of agriculture. The Fund for Rural America’s support ensures this visionary project continues to flourish, leaving a lasting impact on agricultural education and sustainability.

Learn more about Compeer’s Fund for Rural America.

facebook twitter linkedin email copy clipboard phone fax pdf print checkmark