Project architects, museum staff and elected officials break ground on the children’s barn project.

A groundbreaking was held today at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in LeFleur East for a new children’s barn, equipment barn and multi-purpose building.

Mississippi’s Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson called it “a great day as we celebrate a new beginning.”

An accidental fire destroyed multiple buildings behind the museum’s main building in November 2014, including the children’s barn. Insurance proceeds will cover the $750,000 estimated cost for the barn and associated buildings.

“As a former legislator, I remember the tragedy of those flames,” Gipson said. “But today, we celebrate beauty from ashes. I’m excited for our children. Here’s a place, right here in Jackson, they can come and make memories for a lifetime.”

The project is expected to be completed in October 2019, just in time for one of the museum’s busiest event seasons.

“Today is a celebration of hard work, perseverance and lots of planning,” said the museumâs executive director Aaron Rodgers. “We, for the first time in a really long time, see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The original museum groundbreaking, Rodgers noted, was in 1979. Our goal is the same goal we started with 40 years ago: a cultivation and appreciation of the past, present and future of Mississippi’s agricultural and forestry industry.”

Gipson said the museum and its sister museums in the LeFleur Museum District, are a key component of the state’s economic development and tourism.

Last year, attendance at the Ag Museum sat at 144,000. “And we expect to double that with the return of animals and the barn.”

Rodgers said he is excited to look ahead at what’s to come in 2019.

“It’s a new day for renovating buildings, renewing programs, reimagining events and reworking education. I think we’ll see a huge influx of people interested in this museum again. This a Phoenix opportunity. We’re rising from the ashes, literally.”

Rendering of the children’s barn and multi-purpose building. Image: Wier Boerner Allin