Fair Oaks Farms plans a new John Deere attraction that will chart the history of the iconic green-and-yellow tractor and other modern-day farm equipment.
The "agricultural Disneyland" at 856 N. County Road 600 E. in Fair Oaks has been in the middle of a building boom in recent years, adding the Crop Adventure, the Pig Adventure, the Pork Education Center and the 265-seat Farmhouse Restaurant. Fair Oaks Farms will soon break ground on a hotel, is growing a you-pick-them apple orchard, and is planning major new chicken and beef cattle adventures.
CEO Gary Corbett said the working agritourism destination in Jasper and Newton counties plans to build a John Deere agricultural equipment museum within the next 12 months.
"It would appeal to a lot of gear heads," he said. "It's going to have a lot of farming equipment going back to the beginning and up to the driverless tractors."
More than 200,000 people a year visit the John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline, Ill., which includes a visitor center, a merchandise and "the world's most comprehensive agricultural exhibit," according to the Quad Cities-based company. In 2014, John Deere also built a 15,000-square-foot museum in Waterloo, Iowa, where the Fortune 100 company is the town's largest employer.
Current exhibits there focus on the early days of tractors, the story behind John Deere's arrival in Waterloo, the process of manufacturing a John Deere tractor from design to assembly, and on how the tractors are used in the world.
John Deere, which raked in more than $26 billion in revenue last year and has seen explosive growth in China, has partnered with Fair Oaks Farms for five or six years. The company has provided Fair Oaks Farms with tractors and other farm equipment and asked about sponsoring an exhibit of its own, Corbett said.
Founded as a dairy farm in 2004, Fair Oaks Farms has grown into a massive tourism attraction that draws more than 600,000 visitors a year that has been profiled in major national media outlets like the New York Times and Fortune Magazine. It continues to add new exhibits both to further its mission of educating the public about modern-day farming practices and to give people a reason to come back if they've seen it before.
The farm will likely add a few employees as a result of the expansion, but not many since it will be a self-guided exhibit that visitors will walk through, Corbett said. Details like the size and amount of investment are still being worked out.
"It's still in the planning stages," Corbett said. "We do know there's a huge public interest in John Deere."