WOOSTER —There is nothing else like it in Ohio. And there was no better time to tour the brand new Buckeye Agriculture Museum and Education Center than last Tuesday, during Ohio Agriculture Week.
Scheduled to open in early May, the new agriculture museum in Wooster is a showcase for Ohio farming and agriculture history.
Visiting the new facility for the first time, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dave Daniels was more than a little impressed.
“This is great. Look at what they’ve done here. Look at the work all the volunteers have done for more than 40 years,” Daniels said. ” I think they’ve got a great start. They have a plan. This will be a great addition for Ohio and Wayne County. I see this continuing to grow. They have the commitment and manpower.”
The entrance to the facility is appropriately a large, impressive 35-foot high silo. Inside is a welcome area, plus large rooms full of antiques and agriculture memorabilia.
In 1975, an Ohio Agricultural Museum Committee was formed and a resolution supporting construction of the museum was introduced in 1977 in the Ohio General Assembly.
Tom Stocksdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Friends of the Wayne County Fair, the group that spearheaded the effort to establish the museum, said during the tour, “We have working to put this together for years. The idea started with Gov. James Rhodes in the 1970s, but that effort failed.”
Located at 877 W. Old Lincoln Way, adjacent to the Wayne County Fairgrounds, the 19,500 square-foot museum has cost about $800,000 to date, with $400,000 coming from a state legislature capital grant.
The vision for the museum dates to then Gov. Jim Rhodes and his administration were making plans for an ag museum to be located along U.S. 250, near the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
“I’m very excited to see this opening. It’s been a long time coming,” Stocksdale said.
The project had been put on hold for decades before being resurrected five years ago by members of the Wayne County Fair Board.
At the end of the tour, Daniels thanked the board for bringing the idea for the museum to life.
“This is impressive,” said Daniels, who added, “I wonder if it is big enough?” referring to all the exhibits there. He was told by board members that there is plenty of room to expand.
“I think what you are doing here is great. You are showing what our forefathers used years ago to what we have today … you will have an opportunity to showcase this history. I wish you all the luck,” Daniels said in presenting a proclamation from Gov. John Kasich to the board.
“I look forward to seeing this completed.”
Paul Locher, a Wayne County historian and the museum’s curatorial adviser, conducted the tour for Daniels along with the board members. Members of the Friends of Wayne County Fair are President Ron Grosjean ; Dr. Richard Mairs and Mike Buchholz, co-vice presidents; Stocksdale, secretary/ treasurer; and Robert Troutman, assistant secretary/treasurer.
During the tour, Daniels saw a variety of antique farm machinery and tools. Each large room in the building has its own theme.
“How far we have come,” Daniels said about the antique equipment.
One of the exhibits included a Jerome Smucker’s Apple Butter Kettle, circa 1870. The large kettle was the original copper kettle in which Jerome Monroe Smucker cooked apple butter, following his family’s recipe. The company started in Orrville, Wayne County.
Daniels admired one of the “centerpiece” items at the museum – a 1923 16 horsepower Russell Steam Engine build by Russell and Company of Massillon. It was restored in 1984 and donated by the Wayne County Fair Board in 2005.
When asked by Rural Life Today after the tour about what he sees as the role of the museum in the state’s agri-tourism efforts, Daniels said
When asked if he thinks the new museum will have a role in agri-tourism, he said, “I think so. It is an important part of our past and how we will continue to grow. It is important for people to see how hard it was for people with hand tools to settle this land.”
Daniels said there is nothing like this museum anywhere in Ohio. “I see great possibilities. There is a natural draw here.”
And he sees this as a statewide draw. “I hope this will draw people from across Ohio and beyond. It was the original intent of this museum. Everyone wants to take a step back in history, a step back in time. This gives them an opportunity to do that.”
Stocksdale added that while the museum will be for everyone, “We want it especially for the kids. We want them to have a place to come to, learn and discover. This will involve the FFA and 4-H groups. We felt a need to preserve and educate.”
The original plan was to locate the museum on the grounds of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. But the Friends wanted it to be in a building in a building with a history of its own. It was an International Harvester Company complex as well as an American Motors franchise.
The Friends of the Wayne County Fair is a local nonprofit, with a board that includes county fair board members and local historians. The Wayne County Fair will eventually own the building after the loan is paid off, but the museum is managed by a separate board.