SAGE Center, Boardman OR: Amazing Field Trip!

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How much do you know about modern farming? I grew up in a farm community in the Caribbean where most of the local farmers were sustenance farming. Many farmers there still used kerosene as a pesticide and the machete was the weeding tool of choice!

photo of man standing while holding pickaxe
Photo by Kelly Lacy on

So while I understand the basic principles of growing things, I really had no understanding of just how many technological advances farming has had in the last 50 years. All that changed with a two hour stop at the Sustainable AGriculture and Energy Center (SAGE Center) in Boardman, OR.

This is part of an ongoing series about our family road trip from Oregon to Georgia. To start at the beginning, click here.

Why did we decide to stop at the SAGE Center? It wasn’t because it was high on our list of things to see, that’s for sure! We had over seven hours of driving to finish on the first day of our four week trip to Georgia and back. However, we needed a spot to eat lunch that would be further than Portland and the scenic Columbia Gorge area.

The problem is that your options for interesting stops are seriously limited once you pass The Dalles. The Roadtrippers app showed us the SAGE Center, and the photos and description were just enough information to encourage us to lunch there.

SAGE Center interior
Our son examines a wildlife display. To the left is the huge central potato processing display.

A well-designed layout

We were not planning to spend two hours there, but once we walked in, we were amazed by the high-quality interactive displays visible just from the front desk! A huge, two-story silver machine dominated the front entrance area. Behind that, a ceiling-height hot air balloon model was visible.

pinnable image of potato chip machine with SAGE Center text and URL
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The air conditioned building, clean restrooms, and water fountain right inside the entrance brought us in, but the displays kept our attention. We paid the entrance fee, snagged scavenger hunts for the kids to complete, and started exploring.

Potato chips display
From harvested potatoes to potato chips in bags

Our kids ran over to check out the potato chip bags right in the center of the main room. We realized that the giant silver machine showed the entire, fully computerized process of turning potatoes into potato chips and then bagging them for sale. We had to go up to the second story platform to see it all!

Potato sorting machine
Our kids found the two-level potato processing machine fascinating.

Our kids watched, mesmerized, as the potatoes were sorted, cleaned, cut up, fried, seasoned and bagged entirely by machine.

Echoes from the past

Construction marvels display with children
Learning about the dam building process

Looking at old plows, black-and-white photos of farmers and fields, as well as the dams and other engineering marvels that make farming possible in the high desert, we came away with a renewed appreciation for the modern amenities we enjoy. The displays showcase the history of farming and the Port of Morrow, which are both right there in Boardman.

@dinkumtribe Have you ever watched wheat being harvested? We got to ride inside a combine harvester to see this! #wheatharvesting #winterwheat #wheatfarm #oregonfarm #oregonfarmer #oregonfarmers #oregonharvest #adhdfamilies #adhdfamilylife #familytravelinfluencer #familytravelblog #familytravelvlog #homeschoolfieldtrip #homeschoolingmom #homeschoolers #lifeschooling #unschooling #unschoolinglife #learneveryday #learningeveryday #bigfamiliesoftiktok #adhdkiddos ♬ original sound – Samuel Grubbs

SAGE Center does a fantastic job of explaining how modern farming methods are designed to make better use of natural resources.

Concrete worker display
Concrete pouring display

Modern methods

Our kids climbed into the seat of a modern tractor cab, eager to beat each other by planting the most seeds with the least waste in the video game tractor simulation.

Now we understood why fields are often planted in a circular pattern and irrigated the same way with an irrigation frame. Less water and seeds are needed in modern farming because a computer calculates exactly how much of each is needed to cover a given area efficiently.

Over the next few weeks, we often pointed out these same irrigation systems and circular fields, so our kids saw with their own eyes how the farmers make use of them.

Two kids inside tractor cab
The tractor game!

Our teens ran over to try their hands at milking the demo cow by attaching the milking equipment, and also by hand milking. Our youngest son loved moving the barges around on the port model. We all raced up the circular back stairway to see the mural that wraps around the outer staircase wall.

@dinkumtribe Beautiful mural up the circular staircase at the #sustainable #agriculture and #energy (SAGE) Center in Boardman, #oregon. #educational #homeschoolfieldtrip #columbiariver #mural ♬ Simplicity – Jon Steinmeier

We finally decided it was time to go outside to eat because we were saturated with all the information – and that was without even watching the informational videos!

Girl milking cow display
Our daughter and son trying to figure out the cow milking machine

The SAGE Center makes learning rewarding

When the kids finished their scavenger hunts and activity books, they turned them in at the front desk for a goody bag. The goody bag was one of the best ones I’ve ever seen at a museum. Inside there was candy, an Oregon Trail activity book, bumper stickers, pencils, crayons, and a fun cow on a stick. That cow made for fun photo ops at other stops on our trip.

Our kids all found something they could appreciate, and we didn’t feel a need to buy anything at the gift shop for the kids. Parent win!

Gift bag says "Welcome to Oregon"
Prize bag for the scavenger hunt

Outside the SAGE building is a beautiful playground structure and a picnic table, so we had our lunch there. Our kids loved being able to run and climb before getting into the car for a few more hours.

The gift shop had some really cute farmhouse decor items. They also sell individual cups of Tillamook ice cream!

The outdoor playground at the SAGE Center, with the irrigation structure over the top

Great for Field Trips

This turned out to be an amazing, family-friendly stop that everyone enjoyed. Since it’s only a few hours from our home, we plan to return again someday for a field trip. They also host school groups, but since it was summertime there was only one small group there the same day we visited.

If you are a homeschool family on a road trip, or looking for a stop that is interesting and educational, you can’t do better than the SAGE Center. 

Kids and adult in Sage Center Cutouts
Our family loves these cutout pictures!

The next stop on our Summer 2021 road trip was the Oregon Trail Ruts.

Have you visited Boardman or the SAGE Center? Tell us what you thought!

© Copyright 2021 Jennifer D. Warren

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About the author

Brian Warren is a native of California and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and several other countries. He's husband to Jennifer, Dad of six children, and taught middle school history for several years. His special interests include craft beers, the American Old West, and geology. Brian is also an online marketing specialist and cofounder of Dinkum Tribe, a website dedicated to healthy, happy families. Feel free to send Brian a message at [email protected].


  1. This looks fascinating – I love finding ‘nerdy’ stuff like this when I travel. Looking forward to visiting this part of the world very soon!

  2. What a unique museum! Looks very interactive – definitely fun for the kids! I bet the kids loved the goody bag! 🙂

  3. Oooh very cool! I can totally see why it’d get the kids interested, especially when there are tasty-looking chips involved!

    I grew up in a rural area, so like you, I know the basics…but I know far less about all the super modern technology that keeps farms ticking now. It’s fascinating.

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