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National land grant colleges on display at Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall

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Mississippi State University has a mechanical cow named "Maggie" that children can milk at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. MSU, one of 17 land grant colleges represented at the festival, also brought its Mobile Veterinary Clinic. (USDA photo)


Professors and students from land grant colleges throughout the country have come to Washington to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the land grant system by participating in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, being held through Sunday and again July 4 – 8.

The festival’s main performing arts center has been named after Justin Morrill ,for whom the act establishing the agricultural colleges is named. The festival includes a series of evening concerts, including some by performers from land grant schools. West Virginia University’s steel band drum ensemble performed on Wednesday, and the University of the District of Columbia Jazz Ensemble will perform July 7 at 6 p.m. at the Morrill center.

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Part of the USDA's "People's Garden" exhibit at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is this shed with a recycled and sod roof, part of an exhibit on sustainable garden design. (USDA photo)


A tour of the area on opening day revealed that the exhibitions that explain the work land grant schools do today in their own states and around the world:
  • Mississippi State University’s exhibition where children can learn what it feels like to milk a cow (at least a mechanical one), and how its mobile veterinary clinic treats pets.
  • A University of Vermont and State Agriculture College display on maple syrup.
  • Northwest Indian College’s explanation of how traditional plants and foods can help Native Americans avoid diabetes.
  • Indiana University’s Sisters of the Cloth demonstration of how African-American women developed their expertise in quilt making, as well as the university's “telematics” interactive opera on climate change.
  • A University of Illinois basketball court that shows how kids in wheelchairs can play basketball.
  • Texas A&M’s center for making simple clay and sawdust filtration pots that people in developing countries can use to clean up contaminated water.
  • A University of California at Davis display on what extra virgin olive oil really is.
  • University of Tennessee’s Living Light home that creates more energy than the home uses.

In addition, a separate exhibition called “Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River” explores how African-Americans from the rural South brought their culture to the city.