Fields of alfalfa hay, cotton, and corn stretch in all directions from State 99 in Tulare County, about halfway between Sacramento and Los Angeles. The oversize scale and vast sweep of the southern San Joaquin Valley, the country's most fertile farm region, inspires an altered perspective.
So it's no surprise that Tulare's new museum, opened in October, is the state's largest ag exhibit hall. The $4-million Heritage Complex shows urbanites just how farmers grow the 350 crops harvested in the valley.
The museum provides a nice way for travelers heading up and down State 99 to get a feel for the fields and communities they've been zipping past. "We're telling the stories behind the tractors," says George Wilson, the museum's facility director.
Resembling the world's largest barn, the complex is on the grounds of the World Ag Expo. Growers have been gathering here at the largest ag convention in the world for the past 32 years to see the latest tractors, excavators, and farm practices.
Open year-round, the complex also has a produce stand and gift shop, a commodities trading floor, and office space for ag businesses.
Wilson hopes visitors will walk away impressed by the valley's scope. "Before, you had to travel from Exeter to Coalinga to understand the valley's range. Now we have it all here, citrus to cattle," he says.
Heritage Complex: 9-4 Mon-Sat, 1-4 Sun; $5. 4450 S. Laspina St.; (559) 688-1030. 2001 World Ag Expo: Feb 13-15; $6. (800) 999-9186; www.farmshow.org.