Current: Farmers Union building at State Fair educates with local food delights

Barns and shed theme designed by CNH Architects with integrated Birchwood Café food truck, BLTs, new fruit cobbler, Nitro coffee, displays and videos educate fairgoers about Minnesota’s $75 billion industry

All details for the Minnesota Farmers Union building remodel at the Minnesota State Fair have been completed after the bulk of them were made ready for last year’s event.

CNH Architects took on the task to help the group to educate more fair-goers about the $75 billion farming industry.

Recent additions include a permanent front canopy and lighting, as well as a roof over the back patio, explains Quinn Hutson, a principal with CNH. “This completes the second phase and the Farmers Union is excited for another very successful State Fair week.”

Fresh food selections sourced from across the state were presented to thousands in 2018. Guests sipped on specialty coffees, delicious BLTs and a new cobbler dessert. The Heirloom Sweet Corn BLT was recognized as one of the top food items at last year’s fair. (WCCO | Star Tribune | MSP Magazine)

“They wanted to improve the serving area to serve more customers, maximizing the flow and reducing the amount of steps for servers,” said Hutson.

Galvanized metal countertops are reminiscent of dairy facilities, with recycled barnwood used as facing and barn and shed elements behind the counter to give an agricultural feel. There were numerous design decisions to make for a relatively small area.

Operating since the 1950s, and perhaps best known in the past for its yardsticks, the Farmers Union is now known for its coffee. The new design integrates with a food truck with service provided by Birchwood Café in Minneapolis.

“It’s a palace compared to the concession stands, an awesome facility,” said Project Coordinator Jimmy Layer with Birchwood.

Nitro and cold pressed coffees, frappes and as full-service hot coffee beverages sourced by JS Bean Factory in St. Paul have made this a first stop for fair participants, one that had lines well across the street in 2017, explains Layer. It’s located at 1635 Dan Patch Avenue, at the Corner of Cosgrove Street, near the traditional fair entrance off of Snelling Avenue.

“We are excited for our building to better serve fair-goers and connect them with those who grow their food,” said the Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish. “Part of the fair’s mission is to celebrate Minnesota agriculture, and we are doing our part to carry out that mission.”

One key element in that effort is a 16-foot Minnesota map showing the farms providing ingredients for the food served in the remodeled facility.. From Stony Creek Dairy in Melrose, west of the Twin Cities to 14 other food providers to its east, the map reads, “Standing For Agriculture, Working for Farmers.”

Four nitro coffee taps, two for cold press and two for lemonade are dramatically increasing capacity. For those waiting, or consuming product at high tables inside, large capacity building fans coupled with ceiling units will keep air flowing, Hutson explained.  New gray tile flooring under all LED lighting as well as a poured concrete deck with seating and tables have also changed the look and functionality. Lumber gates make up fencing along the outer perimeter with newly painted surfaces throughout.

Senior Project Designer Al Tsai with CNH Architects said the project was fast moving, enjoyable and has high visibility along one of the fair’s busiest stretches. The high-quality work happened under a tight time schedule, he explained.

Hutson said he is impressed by the high quality, Minnesota-grown food and the farming education offered in the building.

CNH Architects is a creative, service-oriented firm that provides innovative design solutions for the commercial building and retail areas, public sector clients, such as cities, counties and states, and vehicle facility projects, day care and animal care facilities.  CNH has served clients in the Twin Cities and Upper Midwest for almost 50 years.

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