Finding the story in your farm’s history: Part 1

Sharing what you know about your farm’s history can create interest and bring visitors.

Because many farm markets have been in business for generations, you might have customers who visit because their parents did before. By further developing and sharing this history you can build on an already existing appreciation for it. Sharing your cultural background will make your farm an even more interesting place to visit!

According to Matthew Schuld, former museum manager for Elkhart County Historical Museum and outreach coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, one of the best resources for uncovering farm history is memory and oral history. (Schuld currently works at Summit Tree Sales, and was a speaker at the recent Great Lakes Expo in Grand Rapids). If you have elderly relatives, neighbors or community members who would have memories of your farm, interviewing them may uncover information that would never be found anywhere else. Additionally, showing you value and respect their imput is a great service to seniors.

If a farm has been in the same family for many generations, farm record books, diaries, letters, and scrapbooks can offer insight ranging from crop production to captivating accounts of everyday life. Photographs related to farm and family history could be fascinating to display. Local historical societies, libraries, and newspaper archives will likely have photographs of specific farms or of agriculture related events in the community (e.g. harvest, equipment used, special events). Collections of artificats found on the farm can also be fascinating to visitors. Everyone likes UFOs (unidentified farming objects) and they create an opportunity for conversation. 

Schuld says if you have a historic barn, farm house and other out buildings with an impressive overlook that gives visitors a birds-eye view of the landscape, they provide excellent opportunities for discussing the history of both the built and natural landscape. A little library research into architectural history books can offer insight into when buildings were constructed, what architecture certain cultures and ethnic groups preferred, as well as, how building use changed over time.

More information on displaying cultural and historical information about your farm will be shared in Finding the story in your farm’s history: Part 2.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development, packaging and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food, value-added agriculture, and natural resource products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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