Farm Horizons, February 2004

Students help build exhibit to tell story of dairy farms

By David Cox

A small fleet of young people descended on Carver County farmers over the winter to track and preserve the history of dairy farming in the community.

Students in Ron Ketcher's fifth and sixth grade class at Zion Lutheran School in Mayer are participating in a student exhibit program sponsored by the Carver County Historical Society (CCHS).

The program required students to research agriculture in Carver County, and help build a display for the Carver County Museum in Waconia.

Dairy farming ­ from the times of using a milk stool, to visiting with modern-day dairy farmers ­ is the theme of the project.

Students selecte objects, such as a milk pail, learn about its purpose and function in the past, and then created a project for the exhibit.

"For many years, dairy farming was the main source of income for Carver County," Ketcher said.

The exhibits document changes to dairy farming that occurred over the years.

The exhibit also gives credit to a way of life that has been the bedrock of the county's economy for decades.

Aside from this, the museum is looking to add items that represent the community to its collections.

"I was surprised when I came here two and a half years ago," CCHS Curator Larry Hutchins said.

"At that time, the museum only had a few items related to dairy farming," he said.

"We were fortunate to receive a donation from a family that saved pieces from every change in technology in the dairy industry over the years, and now we have a good collection," Hutchins said.

CCHS Education Coordinator Suzie Armstrong said.

"We like to think of ourselves not just as historians, but as story tellers. We are keeping the story alive, and the students will be helping to tell the story of their community," she said.

The students also learn about the process that the curators use when creating an exhibit.

Each year, CCHS selects a class from an area school to participate in the program. Last year, fifth grade students from St. Hubert's Catholic School and Chappel Hill Academy in Chanhassen prepared an exhibit on the historical role of the church in the community.

Hutchins is excited about this year's relatively small class size.

"We had 100 students participating last year, and that was a challenge. This year we have 20 students, and we will be able to do a lot more one-on-one work with them," Hutchins said.

During the course of the program, Hutchins and Armstrong will make several classroom visits, and the students will take field trips to visit the museum.

"We are really excited about doing this," Ketcher said. "The students are excited. They often ask me when Larry and Suzie will be coming out again."

Once the student research and interviews are done, the project will be turned over to the museum staff for final preparation.

The exhibit is scheduled to open Saturday, April 24 at the Carver County Museum located at 555 W. First Street in Waconia.

Ketcher believes that the history of dairy farming will be a popular subject.

"If we do a good job, I think a lot of people will want to come out and see it," he said.

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