Archive for Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ag Hall of Fame important staple in community

October 8, 2009

I was both saddened and shocked when I first read about all the difficulties some of our long-standing Wyandotte County institutions are encountering. It seems that Wyandotte County Lake, Wyandotte County Museum and the National Agricultural Hall of Fame are all fighting for their existence. This makes me really upset and worried. I don’t understand how we can stand for these nonprofit, but extremely important, educational and recreational treasures to fold up and go away in a time when our county officials have gone all out to make this area a tourist attraction and destination for people looking for fun and entertainment.

I have nothing against all the new entertainment and shopping venues that have arrived here with our local governmental blessings. I am totally grateful for their existence because the racetrack, baseball league, shopping, dining, motels and other entertainment facilities are bringing much needed revenue and jobs into our county. But, surely, some room can be found in the overall funding for our heritage institutions.

I have a great attachment and fondness for the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, which is not run by any governmental agency. The first and foremost reason is because I grew up on a ranch/farm and come from a long line of those who worked the earth. Until the last century, the majority of our population in this country had strong ties to agriculture and made their living off of the land. I grew up in a world where I knew the source of most of my food — sometimes a little too well for comfort. I had milked cows, fed chickens, gathered eggs and watched my parents, aunts and uncles butcher the animals that appeared on the table.

I was there when it was time to plant and to harvest the wheat that would become bread. And, I was there when my family bemoaned the price that was given to them for their agricultural production — a price that often was less than the actual cost of production.

It saddens me to know that most of the next generation will have little knowledge of farming. In 1790, 90 percent of the labor force were farmers; in 1930, 21 percent of the labor force were farmers. In 1990, farmers made up 2.6 percent of the labor force. Now, according to United States statistics from the EPA, less than 1 percent of our population claim farming as an occupation. Corporate farming seems to be the coming trend, although a few courageous souls are bucking the trend with small family farms. On the whole, though, I doubt that most people realize what goes into producing dinner.

That’s why we need institutions such as the National Agricultural Hall of Fame with its many collections of resources documenting our past way of life. There, one can wander through collections of antique farm implements and buildings such as replicas of a blacksmith shop, a general store, a poultry hatchery, a one-room country school house, a 100-year old railroad depot, a farm shed, chicken coop and a wooden silo. The giant chicken statue and the miniature train on the grounds particularly fascinate my granddaughter.

Wyandotte County businessmen, farmers and residents are heavily represented in those who have made up the Board of Directors for the Ag Hall. Wyandotte Countians also have given countless hours of volunteer time to the Ag Hall. Over the years, I’ve written and read stories about bee keepers, tractor collectors, threshing machine operators, school teachers, artists, gardeners, FFA members, farmers and their wives, train operators, blacksmiths and many more who’ve contributed time, materials, effort and money to the Ag Hall. Not only is it a national treasure, but it is vital to the identity of Wyandotte County. Surely, our officials can find a way help keep the National Hall of Agriculture an important part of our community.

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