BLISSFIELD, Mich. — Construction of an interactive farm museum is under way in Lenawee County.
The American Farm Museum and Education Center will feature a 13,000-piece collection of farm toys worth millions of dollars donated by Charles and Barbara Burkholder. Their antique collection includes more than 350 pebble tractors alongside other farm equipment the couple accumulated over 40 years.
Pete Durbin, chairman of the planning committee, said the idea for this project came from Mr. Burkholder in 2011. For 18 years, he searched for a permanent home where his collection could be kept without being separated.
“He wanted to make certain that all of those years of labor stayed together,” Mr. Durbin said.
The board expanded on the idea and incorporated an education component into the museum. The 54-acre site will showcase how farm practices have changed over the years, providing a window into the future of farming.
“It will answer questions about where our eggs come from, how we get our local bread, and our upcoming technology,” board member Melissa Growden said.
The board contacted the agricultural departments at the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State to forge an educational partnership that will make up about 70 percent of the project.
Ben Eisel, leader of construction and board member, said the center will inform the public about future agricultural practices and serve as a learning environment for ideas to spread across rural America.
“We don’t believe there’s anything close to this concept in a multistate area,” he said. “We know across the United States there are some [museums] that are close, but this is unique because it's going to be hands on, interactive, and virtual. People can come with an idea of a new concept and teach.”
Ms. Growden said Lenawee County’s rich farmland and its distinction of having the highest production of eggs in the state make it the right place for such an education center to exist.
The board has already raised more than $25,000 through corporate sponsorships for the $15 million to $20 million multiphase plan. The rest of the funding will come from grants and private donors.
“This is a full interactive museum for families to bring kids, for corporate clients to host learning seminars, for the community to use as an event center,” Mr. Eisel said.
Establishing this interactive museum will emphasize how important agriculture is because children nowadays don’t know what a dairy farm is, board member Jerry Roessler said.
The board hopes to eventually expand the museum into a campus for students of all levels to enjoy as part of their learning experience.
They will consistently change the display to keep individuals interested in returning annually, board member Mike Cory said.
“We want to make sure that 10 years from now, the doors are still open,” he said.
Individuals interested in volunteering or learning more about the center can reach the AFMEC board at facebook.com/Americanfarmmuseumandeducationcenter/.
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