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Farming has Superstars, Too

  • Ted Landphair

You name it. If it's a piece of farm machinery, it's probably in the Ag Hall of Fame's museum, or outside.

You name it. If it's a piece of farm machinery, it's probably in the Ag Hall of Fame's museum, or outside.

You can learn about them at agriculture's very own hall of fame

Just about every sport has a hall of fame, where its stars are enshrined and visitors can see exhibits related to the game.

But people also pull off the road to visit other halls of fame that honor everything from teachers to greyhound dogs. And just as you'll find Elvis Presley enshrined at the Rock-'n'-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, you'll see exhibits honoring the giants of the Farm Belt at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in the little town of Bonner Springs, Kansas.

U.S. president Thomas Jefferson called yeoman farmers the chosen people of God. Jefferson himself is enshrined in the ag hall of fame, as is his fellow farming president, George Washington. When a farmer climbs up on a tractor, it was a climb, even in the early days.

When a farmer climbs up on a tractor, it was a climb, even in the early days.

President Abraham Lincoln's an honoree, too, and not for his legendary woodchopping skills. He signed laws opening the West to homesteading, created the national department of agriculture, and established colleges in rural areas.

Most U.S. visitors recognize some of the other figures, too, including legendary plant geneticist Luther Burbank and John Deere, whose steel plow vastly increased farm production.

But even rural schoolchildren need some help identifying some of the other hall of famers like Stephen Babcock, who made it possible to determine the butterfat content of milk; and Marion Dorset, a chemist who developed a serum to prevent hog cholera. There's only one thing wrong with this old-fashioned one-room schoolroom at the Ag Hall of Fame: The U.S. flag has 50 stars!

There's only one thing wrong with this old-fashioned one-room schoolroom at the Ag Hall of Fame: The U.S. flag has 50 stars!

The Agriculture Hall of Fame was chartered by Congress in 1960 but is privately funded. It's full of farm equipment, displays of rural artwork, and - outside, on the 100-hectare grounds - a model farm town, circa 1900. The town features a blacksmith shop, poultry hatchery, train depot, and a one-room schoolhouse to which children from throughout the Midwest are brought for a day quite unlike the one most of them experience in their modern, air-conditioned classrooms.

All in all, the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame is a one-stop glimpse into America's rural heritage. One person we met there called it a passport to simpler times.

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