BONNER SPRINGS, KANSAS — Dozens of elementary students from area schools arrive by bus at the National Ag Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, eager to explore an industry that seems almost foreign to them: farming.
At the entrance to the Hall – more commonly called the Ag Hall – is the National Farmer’s Memorial, the only one of its kind. A large, domelike structure shelters a three-part rustic bronze relief.
Each section of the relief represents one part of the history of the farmer: the settlers who first plowed and harvested the land, the many who followed afterward, and the machinery that helps the industry grow.
One of the Ag Hall’s special events for this particular group of visiting students spotlights how reliant everyone is on the farmer for everyday kitchen staples, including the ingredients to make the most significant food in a child’s life: pizza.
The program’s first station shows the grains used to make the pizza crust, wheat in particular. Children learn how the industry of planting, harvesting and processing wheat has changed over the years.
Another station spotlights the dairy industry. Presenters discuss how cheese products are processed from cow’s milk, the four segments of a cow’s stomach, and the various ways milk can be used to create a variety of dairy products.
Farther on, the children learn about growing vegetables. The students answer questions of what they like on their pizzas with a variety of possibilities, including green peppers, onions and mushrooms.
The real emphasis, however, is on the pizza sauce. Instructors point out the importance of tomatoes in a common zesty pizza sauce mixed with herbs, spices and other vegetables.
The last area focuses on pork. One of the most popular pizza toppings in the United States is pepperoni, as ranked by 85 percent of the country’s pizzerias. The visiting students learn that pork comes from pigs raised by farmers/ranchers. The much-maligned animal – for its love of mud and its unusual snout – provides a number of significant food items such as bacon, sausage and ham. Students learn about other pig components used by consumers including leather, brushes, soap and some medicines.
The final step to the educational tour is a delicious repast of mouthwatering pizza in the Ag Hall’s recreational big red barn.
With the rapid growth of commercial development and residential housing expansion, many people are unaware of where and how food items are produced. The purpose of the National Agricultural Hall of Fame is to educate people about the complex processes that can go into the food industry. It is a one-of-a-kind location for visitors to learn about the importance of agriculture in the everyday world.
The Ag Hall was established by federal charter through an act of the 86th Congress, which was signed August 31, 1960, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since then, it has inducted 38 honorary members into the Hall of Fame, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Eli Whitney, Squanto, Arthur Capper, George Washington Carver and Robert J. Dole.
Since its inception, the Ag Hall has added a number of new features to its 172-acre campus. It not only celebrates the farming industry, which for many years was the area’s major industry, its Farm Town U.S.A. demonstrates how settlers might have lived. This small town includes a blacksmith shop, stores, a one-room schoolhouse and church, a functional white farmhouse, and a nature trail. Another feature is the authentic train depot, which houses a miniature train that offers rides around the acreage.
More recently, the Ag Hall established the National Poultry Museum, which provides an excellent view into both the private and commercial poultry industry.
Loyl Stromberg, founder and author of multiple books on poultry, worked diligently for 15 years to establish the poultry museum in the United States and, more specifically, at the Ag Hall. Stromberg’s goal was to institute a national museum that would present the history of poultry as well as the development of the modern egg and poultry meat industry.
The poultry industry, which began on a small-scale backyard basis, has transformed through the last century into a lucrative $30 billion business and a mind-boggling assortment of products. The museum answers many questions regarding chickens.
In addition to Stromberg’s vast collection of artifacts, documentation, artwork, photographs, and antique poultry equipment, the museum received artwork from around the world to supplement the exhibit.
In addition to different themes for numerous school field trips, the Ag Hall of Fame provides different hands-on tours and specialized events.
For more information about the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, visit the website at www.AgHallOfFame.com, or call 913-721-1075.