"We are very excited to bring this project to life. Agricultural heritage is important to every member of our society,” said Kelly Kendall, Museum complex curator. “Very soon, the awareness about agriculture that is generated by Ag Day will be experienced year-round."
Planned to reside on fourteen acres, the museum complex will be home to eight permanent exhibits, each focusing on a separate aspect of agriculture. Each museum is designed to be a stand-alone showcase, but together, tell the full story of the history of worldwide agriculture.
Major exhibits include: The Origins of Agriculture, Plant Biology, Animal Science, Environmental Agriculture, The Four Seasons, Tools and Innovations, Structural Agriculture, and a Featured Crop exhibit.
The complex will also feature a visitors' center, café, and theater where people can see video presentations about agricultural topics. In all, plans for the complex call for nearly 60,000 square feet of exhibit space. Once completed, it will be the largest and most comprehensive agricultural heritage museum in the world.
Museum exhibits will follow a timeline from the beginnings of crop production and livestock domestication to advanced, modern-day technology. For each subject area, the museum will focus attention on the pivotal transformation that occurred in the 1930s, when commercial operations began to overtake the self-sustaining farms that had existed throughout man's history.
According to Kendall, "Transportation changes, rural electrification, and mechanization really affected how the world produced food. When considered with the formation of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, you can see that the 1930s were a critical developmental stage for agriculture."
Exhibits at the FARM Museum Complex will be hybrids of those found in traditional history and natural history museums. Kendall says, "It is important to us that the exhibits inspire awareness, respect, and interest in agriculture. There is no better way to do this than by making the exhibit spaces interactive."
Among many others, ideas for such displays include a mock supermarket where visitors identify the source of ag-related products, a laboratory where people can see how genetics and selective breeding result in tastier, more nutritious food products, and a working greenhouse where guests plant their own seeds.
According to Micheal Lavender, financial programs officer for FARM, the past year has been devoted to exploring the potential for the museum complex and soliciting feedback from those involved in ag education, agriculture agencies and associations, and the agriculture industries.
"We have made a lot of progress as a result of the support from the ag community. Educators and business leaders alike have seen the merit in creating a place where all aspects of agriculture are on display and are available for examination by the public" he says.
With groundbreaking scheduled for late 2003, planners are working hard to meet upcoming deadlines. "There has been tremendous support from the ag community for this type of museum" said Lavender.
Having already secured several in-kind donations, financial donations, and property for the complex, efforts are now focused on organizing support from companies in the ag industry.
"Twenty-four million American workers produce, process, and trade the nation's food and fiber,” Lavender said. “That accounts for nearly $1 trillion in economic activity. We are working with companies who want to ensure that the next generation knows where their food comes from and has had the opportunity to learn the rich stories behind our agricultural heritage."