Here’s the dill, er, deal…

The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum is capitalizing on a preservation technique to throw a first-ever festival.

“I love pickles… pickled anything,” said Ag Museum Executive Director, Aaron Rodgers. “I’m fired up!”

He should be. The Mississippi Pickle Fest is coming June 15.

This “full, family-friendly fun day” hopes to feature contests, tastings, workshops on food preservation and promotion of Mississippi picklers.

“Come out,” Rodgers said, “run around, eat lunch, go to a workshop, go to a contest, let the kids play games, listen to music – and explore the museum.”

The idea first came about when seeking out items for the museum’s general store.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to get the right thing in the store, items that work with the times and fit our budget,” Rodger said. “One thing I suggested more than once was selling pickles.”

The store manager at the time, Lindsey Pickle (seriously), ordered the pickles and Rodgers said it was the “light bulb moment” for a future event.

“I began informally polling people,” he explained. “I realized (pickling is) very multigenerational.”

Rodgers said food storage is one of the big, complicated parts of agricultural history, dating back 10,000 years, and pickling has been one of the techniques that has allowed people to store food over long periods of time.

But pickling, as a part of homesteading, is also “hip” today.

“There’s this little revolution, in people interested in backyard birding,” Rodgers said. “There are a ton of people starting a garden for the first time, young people who see it as a way of taking care of themselves. Pickling was a next step. It’s like, ‘I grew some great cucumbers last year. But me and my spouse or roommates only eat two a week and we’re growing 25. What do you do?’ There’s an educational side to it.”

Rodgers hopes the festival gives the museum a chance to bridge the gap, between the “read-see-learn” model and the tactile, hands-on approach most museum-going children expect these days.

“I want to take what we have here, these beautiful grounds, and turn them into a bit of a connector between places like the Mississippi Children’s Museum and something like a Smithsonian or an art museum,” Rodgers said. “(I want to create a place) where you are supposed to go in and touch and feel, as well as sit, learn and watch.”

The festival fits right in with Rodgers’ push to make the Ag Museum fresh and open to new ideas.

“When we saw (Pickle Fest) explode online, it allowed us to ease up and trust our instincts a bit more,” he said. “As a state agency, sometimes you get locked into what has always worked. We haven’t always thought outside the box with our limited funding.”

But with new facilities soon to open here, more money and growing attendance numbers, Rodgers is hopeful the museum will use Pickle Fest as yet another way for museumgoers to dig into all they have to offer.

“Festivals allow us to get people’s hands dirty. Which, I feel is one of my big responsibilities here: that kids leave with a bit of dirt under their fingernails.”

Did you know… Mississippi had a pickle capital? The American Pickle and Canning Company was founded in Wiggins in 1912.