By Glenn Brunkow, Kansas Farmer
Recently I had a meeting at the Agriculture Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs. There are many places that fascinate me and this is one of them. I am not sure how many times I have been to the Hall of Fame, several over the past twenty years or so and I never fail to see something new and this time was no exception. The Hall of Fame has a new director, new direction and new life and it is something everyone should go see.
Of course, my favorite part is all of the old farm equipment on display. I jokingly told those around me that it was like going into our machine shed and there may have been some truth to that. Like any farmer the old implements, tractors and combines of the past catch my attention and I try to think about what it must have been like to use them. My conclusion is that farming now is pretty cushy compared to back then.
I started my tractor driving career on an open tractor, but I was raking hay and that hardly compares with plowing, disking or planting. I just barely remember Dad combining with an old Massey combine with no cab. I don’t really remember the combine, just Mom’s strict orders for us to stay out of Dad’s way when he got home and to give him a clear path to the shower. I also remember not recognizing the dusty, greasy guy who hastily made his way to the shower.
I could and have spent a great deal of time studying the old equipment and reading the signs in front of their display. Yes, I am that person in a museum. I read everything and if you want to get through one in a hurry, I am not the person you want to go with. Rushing through the Hall of Fame with me is not an option. If you have any background in agriculture and any knowledge of equipment this section will hold you for quite a while.
The Hall’s newest exhibit and one of the biggest feathers in their cap is a sculpture donated by Bayer. It was made for the Farm Progress Show and is constructed entirely of recycled materials. I must say that the pop bottle corn is really eye catching. I am not usually one for art but this display alone is worth going to see. More importantly it also marks a partnership with Bayer that will lead to even greater things.
The Hall of Fame also has a number of old structures like an old railroad depot, blacksmith shop and school that are neat to walk through and get a feel of what it must have been like a hundred years ago. The building I found most interesting was the old farm house and outbuildings. It is set up just like a turn of the century farm and offers an experience of farm life from that era to school kids.
Speaking of kids, that is what I think is the most exciting and holds the most promise for the Ag Hall of Fame. They have been working on various projects involving children from nearby schools. They have also forged a partnership with Kansas State Research and Extension Master Gardeners to start a gardening project. This is exciting because it involves urban youth who get a glimpse and taste of agriculture and what it is like to grow food. That is where the Hall of Fame can have its biggest impact.
This project also has a display garden complete with more signs to side track those of us who are into such things. They have also added a bee keeping exhibit that is really buzzing (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself). If you want to see something really odd and cool ask the staff to show you the plow in a tree. Yes, a plow in a tree. It is my understanding that the plow somehow had grown into the tree and was suspended twelve feed off of the ground before the tree died. It is worth the extra effort to see.
I know we are all looking for quick easy trips this summer and the Hall of Fame is just that. It is also relatively cheap, well unless you include it with a trip to the Legends Mall just a couple of miles to the East and then it might be a rather expensive trip. In any case, the Agriculture Hall of Fame is one of the best kept secrets in our neck of the woods and I highly recommend exiting I-70 to take a look.
Glenn Brunkow is a farmer and lives in Westmoreland, Kansas. He works for Kansas State University as a county extension agent, and is on the Kansas Farm Bureau Board of Directors.