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Farm And Ranch Museum

April 20, 2010

Ah! Yet another area institution that I’ve mentioned in previous posts, but have thus far neglected to dedicate an entire post to: the singular Farm And Ranch Museum. (Get it? Their acronym is FARM. Cute, huh?)

The Scottsing economy is tightly interwoven with the farms and ranches in the Wyobraska region, so it’s very fitting that there be a museum dedicated to this subject. And FARM scored a fantastic, scenic location, right down the street from Scotts Bluff National Monument.

If you’re a city gal/guy with no clue how your food is produced, FARM is for you. If you grew up on a farm and get nostalgic about how things used to be, FARM is for you. If you are a photographer who likes to take photos of visually interesting odds-and-ends, FARM is for you. If you like to look at old “junk” and wonder what it’s for, FARM is for you. Heck if you have any sort of an inquiring mind, FARM is for you.

While there’s plenty to see indoors, try to schedule a trip to the museum when the weather is nice. There’s all kinds of equipment and many photogenic scenes outside. And if you’re lucky, you might get to see the museum’s small herd of longhorn cattle.

One of FARM’s photogenic subjects.

FARM has a 40-minute introductory film: “Farming in Western Nebraska 1938-1945”, which I thought was very interesting, but be forewarned, it may put some people to sleep. I wouldn’t consider it an essential part of the museum experience, but it is eye-opening to see the sheer amount of physical labor that was once required to harvest sugar beets, or to learn about the challenges farmers faced during potato harvest, or to witness the engineering know-how required to build a barn. The overall theme of the film seems to be that the successful farmer is a creative, problem-solving, risk-taking entrepreneur, a sentiment that I believe holds as true today as it did in the 1930s-40s.

FARM displays are organized around different commodities—sugar beets, beans, potato, cattle, corn. There’s a great exhibit on conservation tillage and dryland agriculture, as well as oodles of trucks, tractors, and other machinery.

Just keep in mind that FARM is still a work in progress. It’s funded locally and run completely by volunteers. The exhibit building was completed in 2001, and the visitor center was only just completed in 2008. Parts of the museum have more of an antique shop feel than museum. There aren’t too many explanations of what all the equipment was used for (and in some cases, the museum curators don’t even know!).

Here were a few items I photographed on my first visit that made me go “what the . . .???”:

Ouch.

I didn’t know horns needed pumping up.

Yeah. No idea on this one.

But one of the best things about this museum is that whenever you have a question, a volunteer has the answer, and probably a story, too. In my couple of visits to the museum, I’ve found that the volunteers are very knowledgeable and just as interesting as the exhibits. Sit for a spell and let them tell you stories about the provenance of some of the items in the museum. Ask them about their favorite local agriculture stories. You’ll get the inside scoop.

(By the way: calf weaners were strapped onto the calf’s muzzle either to physically prevent the calf from suckling or to poke mom and cause her to push the calf away, the horn weights were used to direct the growth of cattle horns for safety and/or aesthetics, and the chicken plucker rotated so that the rubber “fingers” flicked off the feathers from a hot-water-dipped chicken carcass.)

And now, a random photographic interlude, but preceded by evidence that FARM is another on my list of “museums that I love because they don’t take themselves overly seriously”:

Perfect for Earth Day, a converted Farmall tractor with a “PV8” engine: powered by eight people pedaling on bicycle gears.

This wheel “spoke” to me. Ha!

This was from the seat of a . . . what?

By the numbers: Oliver 90

Wow. What a brute!

UPDATE: Farm And Ranch Museum exhibits temporarily closed in early 2014 to join forces with the North Platte Valley Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum. Artifacts from NPVM and FARM will begin to go on display as new phases of Legacy of the Plains Museum are developed. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

UPDATE: Farm And Ranch Museum joined forces with the former North Platte Valley Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum at 2930 Old Oregon Trail in Gering. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2010 1:28 pm

    I had the pleasure of producing the FARM introductory video about 15 years ago. The farmers who shot the original film (the Kellets) were a very interesting and talented bunch of guys. I believe one or both had their engineering degrees and they did a nice job shooting the film and capturing a lot of nice moments in farm life of the 30-40s. The barn that they built in that film is still standing and looks a lot better than many of the newer and far inferior outbuildings that have been built since.

    The video is a bit dry, as you have mentioned, but it did lead a funny personal story. I used to play in a band, and we had a game we would play after our shows, when we were in our hotel room trying to get to sleep. We would flip on the history channel, turn down the volume, and make up funny narration in an emotionless high school teacher voice to go along with the boring documentary videos that were generally on at that time of night. After a show in Deadwood, we were flipping through channels and I started my narration of a farmer going through a field on a tractor with “The corn harvest in Western Nebraska…” then stopped and turned the volume up to hear “The corn harvest in Western Nebraska…” come through the TV – which kind of freaked everyone out. By some astronomical stroke of coincidence, we had happened upon the FARM video making late night rounds on the History channel. I stayed up a little longer to see my name in the credits at the end – since this was probably the only time anything that I produced during my short career in video production was ever broadcast on a national channel. That was a little weird.

    The Farm And Ranch Museum is a great place. Thank you for taking the time to write about it!

    Matt Larsen

  2. Katie Bradshaw permalink*
    April 20, 2010 2:00 pm

    Matt, Your story about the history channel is hilarious! I’m so glad the Kellets decided to film their farm. I really learned a lot from watching the video, but it proved too soporific for a couple of guests I brought over to the museum. Granted, we’d already been running around all day, but the narrator’s voice is so SOOTHING.

  3. April 20, 2010 7:32 pm

    I love the comedic twist you use with everything!

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