BECKER -- A local non-profit aimed at creating an educational center for youth and adults to learn about agriculture has taken a big step forward.

Since 2011, Farm Friends Barn has been working on creating a place geared toward providing hands-on experiences for visitors.

The project began when Bill and Margaret Cox donated 220 acres new Becker - 40 of which is designated for agriculture use - to Sherburne County through a land trust, which Farm Friends Barn will be located.

Board Chair Jean Johnson says after a delay, things picked up when Northern Metal relocated to Becker and donated an old barn house found on their property to their organization.

We need to have something to show people so they can be excited. This barn donation was not planned it just came up. Northern Metal donated it to us and we had to take advantage of it.

Johnson says the barn is being house by Northern Metal until they can move it to their five acre site in Becker this fall.

In addition, Johnson says besides to getting the necessary permits, they are also trying to raise $200,000 to build a new facility on the property to serve as the main building.

Johnson says their focus is about being in the now and provide a hands-on learning experience for all ages.

We want to be in the present. Soil and Water Conservation officers can come use this space for demonstrations and have things growing. Kids can actually see and feel things on site. There will also be agriculture and conservation education for adults.

If all goes well they hope to start operations in the barn this fall, and break ground on the new building in spring.

The facility will be located along 27th Avenue Southeast in Becker.

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(Photo: Jean Johnson)