New farm exhibit shows changes
A new traveling exhibit has come to the Agriculture Hall of Fame that will take visitors on a 100-year trip to look at the changes that have occurred in American farming.
"Farm Life: A Century of Change for Farm Families and Their Neighbors" will be at the Hall of Fame, 630 Hall of Fame Drive, Bonner Springs, from now until Oct. 5. The exhibit contains artifacts, photographs and graphic text panels that tell the story of the hardships and triumphs of the American farmer since 1900.
"The Ag Hall focuses on more of the equipment side of farming," said museum curator Kate Alexander. "This exhibit focuses on the stories and changes seen in families and communities."
Alexander said she hopes the exhibit will complement the other permanent exhibits on display at the Hall of Fame, by adding a more intimate look at the people who make up the farming industry. There is an underlying theme to the exhibit that asks the question, "Why have some people chosen to hold steadfast to their farming lifestyle, while so many others have chosen to leave?"
According to the exhibit, in 1900, 42 percent of the U.S. population worked in agriculture, but by 2000, less than 2 percent of the population remained in the profession. Alexander said that the profession "farmer" isn't included on the census anymore because of that significant drop.
The Farm Life exhibit was started in Eau Claire, Wis., by the Chippewa Valley Museum. While the artifacts and photographs focus on the farming industry in Wisconsin, Alexander said many of the themes and stories would make a connection with farmers of the Midwest.
The exhibit is divided into four sections: the farmhouse, fields, barn and community gathering places. There are domestic artifacts to view, as well as equipment that would have been used on a dairy farm. Many of the artifacts are unique, Alexander said, because the farmers invented them to make their job easier. One such artifact is a stool that a farmer strapped to him so that he could walk from one cow to the other and sit whenever he needed.
"Even though this exhibit focuses on farms in Wisconsin, the universal themes of family and community, touched on issues that resonate with farmers, non-farmers and all communities," Alexander said.
To localize the exhibit even more, the Ag Hall of Fame has been conducting a Farm Life Recollection Survey in which local farmers from the area have been asked to share their stories about the changes their profession has undergone during their lives.
The surveys have been distributed as various events as well as at the museum, and will be collected until the end of the exhibit. The returned surveys will be compiled in a notebook for readers to view in the Farm Life exhibit. Alexander said she hoped the information from the survey would supplement what the visitors learn from the artifacts in the exhibit.
The Agriculture Hall of Fame is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, 62 and older, $5 for students and active military, $3 for children, 5 to 16, and free for children under 5. For more information about the Farm Life exhibit or for information about group rates, call (913) 721-1075.