Farmer’s Nightmare: Trapped in the Mall of America
By Tracy Sayler
There’s no way farmers can poke fun at their wives for
owning a closet full of shoes for every occasion, when those same farmers own a closet full of caps for every occasion. Admit it: You have a cap for chores, a “good”
cap you wear in public, a cap for summer, a cap for winter, and backups and triplicates for all of’em.
Then there’s shopping. If you hold the missus captive in the pickup while driving s-l-o-w-l-y through farm implement lots shopping
for iron, then I guess you’re just going to have to grin and bear it when she drags you off to the shopping mall to buy clothes, perfumed bath gels, and more shoes.
Hey, it could be worse. Some day, your worst nightmare might even come true: Trapped in the grand daddy of shopping malls, the Mall of America.
Fear not, my farmer friend. I visited this mall of malls recently, and scoped out ag-related stuff you can find in the event you are ever kidnapped by family members and held hostage there for an afternoon.
Some background: Mall of America annually attracts more than 42.5 million visitors, with almost 40 percent of all traffic coming from outside a 150-mile
radius. Since the Mall opened in 1992, more than 270 million people—about the same as the entire U.S. population—have paid a visit. A study conducted in 1997 by the National Park Service and Road Smart
Magazine listed Mall of America as the most visited destination for U.S. travelers, and the New York Times has reported that Mall of America
attracts more visitors annually than Disney World, Graceland and the Grand Canyon combined.
If they didn’t post signs, you’d almost have to drop seed corn to keep track of where the heck you are. How big is this place? Consider that:
• At 4.2 million square feet, the Mall could hold 24,336 school buses.
• 258 Statue of Liberties or 67 Washington Monuments could lay inside the Mall.
• If it had a retractable roof, nine Eiffel Towers could stand inside.
• If Mount Rushmore was divided into individual monuments, a president could reside in each of the Mall’s four courts.
• If a shopper spent 10 minutes browsing at every store it would take them more than 86 hours to complete their visit to Mall of America.
The Mall’s seven-acre centerpiece, Camp Snoopy, is the largest indoor family theme park in the nation. Mall of America employs more than 12,000
and has over 520 stores. As I indicated, some even have an agricultural flavor.
Rick and Kristine Glenna have a kiosk where they sell maple syrup products processed from their 80 acres of maple trees. “We seem to do better with
out-of-state and international visitors, especially since we have such a regional product that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Kristine. The Glennas also market their products to corporate customers, over the
Internet, and through customer on-farm visits and events. Every spring they host a “Maple Fest,” offering free pancakes and maple syrup.
Another kiosk, “Bamboo World,” sells various arrangements of bamboo, which are growing in popularity because of their uniqueness and easy
maintenance. Orientals believe certain arrangements of bamboo can bring good luck: Three stalks is good luck for happiness, five for health, seven for
wealth, and eight for prosperity. Interestingly, I learned that a bamboo farmer can get a plant to grow in a different angle by covering all sides of it
but one. The plant simply grows toward the light, and a farmer just rotates the plant periodically to get it to grow a different angle. Using this technique,
it takes about 18 months for a bamboo plant to curl 360 degrees.
You can find all sorts of farm toys and tractor-related knick knacks at Al’s Farm Toys, which also sells its wares on the Internet. Dick Rybicki, a
Wisconsin cheese maker and grader for over 40 years, sells an array of specialty cheeses at his store in the Mall, Rybicki Cheese. Some die-hard
Minnesota Vikings fans who double as cheese lovers even shop there, despite the fact that Rybicki Cheese also carries a large selection of Green Bay Packer “cheese-head” souvenirs.
Playing with your cereal is the focus of one of the Mall’s newest attractions, Cereal Adventure, sponsored by General Mills. Cereal Adventure is
intended to teach kids ages 2 to 12 about agriculture, food processing and nutrition through hands-on activities. Kids can get their pictures made on
Wheaties boxes, or slide down a giant spoon into a Cheerios bowl.
At Cereal Adventure’s Farm Factory, children learn how cereal is made and brought to market, from field to breakfast table. The exhibit is sprinkled
with trivia related to “Big G’s” use of grain to make its cereal products. For instance, there are over 12,000 kernels of wheat in a box of Wheaties, and
the company uses three million bushels of wheat, six million bushels of corn, and 15 million bushels of oats each year to make its cereals.
You walk through a simulated grain bin on one part of the exhibit, and they even have a real Oliver Super 55 on hand for kids to climb on. Seeing the
tractor in the middle of this metro mega mall got me thinking that shopping malls in rural areas could keep farmers and their wives happy by simply
housing what they like to shop for under one roof. Just imagine a mall anchored on one end by Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, and on the other, John Deere and Case IH.