Friday, December 30, 2011
This started out as a little look back at some of my highlights for 2011 at Wagner Farm. For the number one position I did not chose a single event but rather something that drives me in my role as director here at Wagner. The number one highlight this year for me was getting the chance to teach. I know for some this might be somewhat anticlimactic so I'm sorry if I let you down. The thing is, I really like to teach. Whether it is one person, a class or even a lecture hall, passing something on is fun. In my job, I spend most of my time as a manager. It is kind of funny, I run a farm but have to actually work hard to find time to leave the office and get outside. So, when I get the chance to teach, it is just the greatest. In 2011 I got to show preschools how to press apples. I taught elementary kids how to hand milk a cow. I even lead my daughter Cassidy's final school field trip of the year to Wagner Farm. It was a great 2011.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
In May, our Wagner Farm team was given an opportunity of a lifetime to present an outreach program at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We were asked to do this as part of their Gardenfest special event. The program we put together complimented their efforts in trying to illustrate where our food originally comes from. Sarah, Jeff and I loaded the Fordson and John Deere model H tractors, a transplanter, a cider press and headed east. Fifteen hours or so later we made it to Washington. While the journey was easy, maneuvering a 30 gooseneck trailer and truck through the capital was not. The Smithsonian had us set up the display on the National Mall just in front of their Castle building. For the two days that we worked there, I never lost the amazement of looking up and seeing the Washington Monument, the Capital Building or the Lincoln Memorial. We even got to see the Marine One helicopter a couple of times overhead. The whole experience was amazing but getting to meet so many people from all over the world was the true highlight for me.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The number three highlight is a recent development as it has only been a month since the Farm was given the historic Dunbar popcorn wagon. This donation was made possible by the generosity of Ron Bernardi who purchased the wagon at the Leroy Hartung auction. Over the next year or so we will restore the wagon to it's former glory. Once operational, it is our plan to use it at events at both the Farm and throughout the community.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The next highlight took not only time, but a lot of effort by so many people. Wagner Farm crossed the 100,000 yearly visitation mark for the first time. When the museum started in 2002 we were pleased with our 2,860 total that year. These days, we will have weekends where that many people come to the farm.
I sometimes wonder what Pete and the rest of the Wagner family would think of all that has happened to the farm since they left it. I would imagine, being the private people they were, some of the historical interpretation of the family might make them a little uncomfortable. However, the farm that they called home is now a landmark that bears their name. Pete might have some satisfaction from knowing that we are teaching young people about farming. When the Wagners owned the farm it was not uncommon for him to have the neighbor kids come down and lend a hand with chores or some other farm task. In many ways, we are still doing the same thing only on a bigger scale.
Monday, December 26, 2011
This post will resonate with parents and teachers especially. When you are living in the minute you loose sight of time passing. Before you know it days turn into years. This is the way I feel about two events that happened this year. First is the high school graduation of the 4-H kids who were with me when the program was started at the Farm. For the last 10 years these kids have been here so much that for many of them it was like a second home at times. To see them graduate was strangely, unexpected. New kids have come into the fold but the "first class" will always have a special place with me.
The other event that provided a highlight this year was the marriage of our first intern Jami. When the museum started out there was a lot of work and not many us around to do it. Jami quickly moved from intern to staff member and friend.
These two events were definitely highlights for 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Number six represents the cumulative effort put forth by the kids of the Glenview Clovers 4-H club at the Lake County Fair. From projects in wood working and wielding to visual arts and cooking the members of our club represented the community in shining fashion. I was particularly pleased with the effort put forth by the members who showed livestock. The club took home a majority of the showmanship trophies and two grand championships in dairy and lamb.
Friday, December 23, 2011
In looking back at the highlights for 2011 number seven is a nod to years of practice. While I was in West Virginia at the national museum conference I entered the plowing contest. I figured years of walking behind a plow might finally pay off. My goal was pretty simple, keep the tip in the ground and try not to trip. When the dust had settled I had placed 6th in the country. Hats off to Jon Kuester from St. Charles, Illinois who won it all.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
In the spring the Farm received a very special visitor, Dr. Temple Grandin. In the agricultural circle Grandin is well known for her work with better understanding animal psychology and improved handling methods. Outside of ag she is a leading speaker on the subject of autism. The recent Claire Danes bio-picture about Grandin won numerous awards. Thanks to a cold call and some coaxing from Julie Tracy, Grandin agreed to come tour the Farm and make a special presentation on livestock care to the Glenview Clovers 4-H club.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I occasionally get the opportunity to present research and professional paper at conferences. This year I stayed especially busy and was asked to present three programs at the regional Midwest Museum Conference, two for the national Association of Living History, Farms and Agricultural Museums and one for the international Agricultural Historical Society. I will confess, public speaking has rarely bothered me. However, Ag. Historical Society one did make me a little nervous. The thought of presenting to a room full of academics and authors was a bit daunting. Some of my apprehension could surely be traced back to an experience I had while as the Farm Director at the Museums at Prophetstown in Lafayette, Indiana. I was asked to give a short program on the history of agriculture to a retirees group. Life lesson number one in public speaking, always ask about your audience. My failure to do so reinforces this point. I remember confidently rambling on for about 45 minutes about this change and that impact in farm history. I also remember a couple of gentlemen in the front row who kept leaning over to one another and whispering something. At the time I was just happy everyone was still awake, it was just after lunch. At the end of the program there were a number of questions and then I went out into the audience and meet some of the men in the room. The two gentlemen in the front row, Dr.s Earl Butz and Don Paarlberg. (Dr. Butz had been the US Secretary of Agriculture)The group was the made up of retirees from Purdue University. In the end, they did like the program and later we would work on a number of projects together at the museum. I still would have liked to know that some of the most influencial ag minds of the day were sitting in the room.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
In the spring, one of the great friends of the farm, Ed Koenig was honored by the Village of Glenview as the Citizen of the Year. I am sure Ed won't mind sharing his honor with the countdown. I considered this list worthy because it is people like Ed and the Friends of Wagner Farm who have helped make the museum, and the community what it is. Ed has an interesting story that relates to Wagner Farm. His family used to be in the dairy business. Back at the turn of the century they would go from farm to farm picking up milk and cream and then processing it for sale. Koenig Dairy did very well and was eventually purchased by Borden. If you will scroll down the blog page and look at the original Dairy Breakfast art on the right side of the screen you will see a picture showing a Koenig Dairy truck stopping by Wagner Farm. As we got ready to open the Heritage Center Ed gave us a 1925 Ford model T truck painted in the Koenig company colors. it is still on exhibit in the main hall. Congratulations Ed on an honor that is so well deserved.
Monday, December 19, 2011
After writing the Wagner Feed for three years it was an absolute shock when I heard that the blog had recieved the Illinios Parks and Recreation Association's top award for use of electronic media. The blog started out as a way to prattle with the volunteers and friends of the farm who wanted to know more about the day to day happenings. Six hundred some posts later it ends up being a really neat record of the evolution that happens in the life of Wagner Farm. I regret that we didn't start it earlier. It would have been so neat to have captured the beginnings of 4-H, the building of the Heritage Center and the thousands of other milestones big and small that have made the Farm what it is today.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
2011 marked the ten year anniversary of my working at Wagner Farm. Considering the job was supposed to be a short stop and then moving on, this anniversary kind of snuck up on me. The reason that I am still here is in part thanks to all that great people that I have met and worked with over the years. The load has been heavy at times but the burden was shared. I have to also say that seeing so many people enjoy the farm has has been a reward in itself.
Thank you for making this such a fun job and great place to call home.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Come this time of year I try to figure out something a little different to blog post. Last year's 12 days of farm Christmas worked well but I had a different idea for this year. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas I thought it might be interesting to do 12 highlights from the year. Narrowing the options was a bit hard but I think I have a few that stand out.
To get this effort started I wanted to offer up a Honorable Mention - the new farmyard shed. The twists and turns on getting the shed have been numerous but in May it finally started coming out of the ground. Over the course of the summer, farm staff worked hard to have it ready for fall programs. When Glenview's Springman Jr. High came we were able to teach one of the segments in the new shed. There is still a little grading to do but it is already serving the farm well.
Friday, December 16, 2011
With the month half over I wanted to take a minute and recognize our 2011 graduate intern Patrick. He will be wrapping up his time at Wagner at the end of the month. Patrick has done a great job with tasks from managing the soda fountain to leading school tours. One of the big projects Patrick took on was developing a new first person program for staff to use in the farmhouse during the dinners program. First person is a type of historical interpretation in which the staff take on a persona of the time and do not come out of character. Currently we do all third person interpretation so Patrick's research will lead to some big programming changes.
Please stop by and wish Patrick well as he leaves the Farm. He has been a real star here and will be greatly missed.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
So there really isn't a silo hall of fame but if there were, this structure would have to be in it. Since we are working on a silo project here I have built a small collection of silo pictures. The rare silos are the brick and early glazed tile examples. The reason this one is so unusual is not only how good of shape it is in but how the farm's name and year are spelled out in the brick. This picture was taken last summer by one of the friends of the farm, Greg Britton. The family that built the silo still owns the land and farms it up in Scandinavia, Wisconsin.
If anyone out there has other great silo pictures let me know.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Over the years, the Farm has participated in a number of Eagle Scout Projects. Our latest effort was completed by scout Kevin Gordon of Glenview. His project was to rebuild our existing picnic benches which were in really sad shape. Throughout the summer Kevin raised money and then initiated a work plan with his fellow scouts to get the benches done. They did a great job and the picnic benches are going to get a lot of use in the coming years.
Thanks so much and job well done Kevin.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
As many of you know, we recently obtained a 1930's era broom corn machine. While production is still on the small side we are learning some of the "tricks of the trade". With having a broom corn operation folks are starting to find interesting pieces to give us. The latest to come in is a picture from the late 1890's or so. From writing on the back we think it was taken in Illinois somewhere. The thing I love about photographs is the more you look at them the more you see. The gentlemen in the picture are stripping the seed from broom straw and bundling the heads. The machine they are using is based off the groundhog system and is being powered by a 1 mule sweep drive. Now, here's the hide and seek, do you see the chickens? Dinner is served!
A big thank you to Steve.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Glenview Park District staff gathered tonight to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the year's accomplishments. This year's holiday party was graciously hosted by Wagner Farm. Over 70 staff enjoyed food and merriment and remembrances of 2011. A silent auction was held and staff throughout the district generously donated items. Almost $1,000 was raised for two local charities; the Northfield Food Pantry and the Heartland Animal Shelter. Happy Holidays to all.
I try not to veer off the road and write non-Wagner Farm topics too often but I recently came across an article that got my attention. The United States Department of Labor will be enacting (1/1/12) new rules concerning youth employment on farms. Much of the impetus stems from the inherent dangers that working in agriculture present. According to the Government Accounting Office, agriculture has the "highest fatality rate among young workers at 29 per 100,000 compared to 3.6 per 100,000 across all other industries." In 2008, 456 people under 16 were killed while doing an agricultural task. (1/3 of all the injuries involved tractors.) There is no arguing that farming has dangers involved. Anecdotally it would be hard to find a person in farm country that could not name someone that has been hurt or worse while working the job. The problem with the new rules is while attempting to protect youth it is actually building a wall around an occupation that is fast disappearing in America. How do we as a country hope to produce competent farmers when we keep those most willing to learn on the sidelines? With the average age of a farmer in Illinois at 56 years old it is an issue that needs consideration.
So what about the new rules. The 97 page document that outlines the changes is mind numbing to say the least. Between the multiple HO's catagories (hazardous occupations) and the differing age requirements it is a little hard to totally digest the changes. The following represents some of the more interesting points.
* Youth under 16 will not be allowed to operate power driven equipment.
* Youth under 18 are prohibited from harvesting of fruits and vegetables.
* Machinery operators under 18 can not use electronic or communications devices while on said machinery. (So much for walkie talkies and GPS)
* No one 15 years or younger maybe employed on land not directly owned by their parent.
* Youth under 16 are not allowed to work above the height of 6 feet.
* Youth under 18 are prohibited from interactions with certain livestock without direct adult supervision.
All of these rules contain some differing level of potential "parental exemption" should the parent be the direct land owner. The biggest hitch in this is most farmers have to rent additional land and then this negates the exemption. Also, if the farm is set up in an LLC as many farms are, this too, would impact the parental exemption section.
I don't want to characterize this as an issue that I am totally against. I have a daughter and a nephew and niece that are engaged in farming and I want them to be safe. The thing is, I also want them to have a chance to decide for themselves if agriculture is something they want to go into. Having your first real chance to participate at 18 is just too late.
Being from Iowa I can tell you many tales of kids knowing that farming was in their blood from an early age. My brother Dave would be a prime example. Like many farm kids he collected toy tractors and was read books with characters like Johnny Popper and Corny Cornpicker. He followed Dad around the farm helping out where he could and learning by doing. By age 10 he was able to start his own business making custom hay bales. By 12, Dave was able to purchase a 100+ horse power John Deere 4450 and start farming his own land. Today he operates a multi-million dollar agricultural business. Would Dave had grown up to be a farmer with these new rules in place? I venture to say yes. But with out the experience and the jump start in farming he would not be in the place he is today. Agriculture isn't just a major you can take in college. To do the job, you have to devote years to it. Farming is dangerous, it always has been and will be. With only 1.5% of the United States population farmers, it is easy to see why the voices of dissent over this ruling are not being heard.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
All that practice paid off, the singing was great! No matter how cold it is or how many people come out this night is one of the highlights in the 4-H year. After our tour of the neighborhood it was time for a gift exchange, treats and some dancing! Happy Holidays from the Glenview Clovers!