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Pasto Agricultural Museum Connects Past and Present at Ag Progress Days

by on August 14, 2014 12:35 PM

A 6,000 year old clay sickle might not seem to have much in common with the modern combine to the average person, but for Pasto Agricultural Museum Curator Rita Graef the two are inextricably linked.

The sickle – an ancient tool from Mesopotamia, “the cradle of agriculture” – hangs on the wall of the museum, which has been a popular stop for many visitors to the annual Ag Progress Days festival.

Graef says primitive clay tools like the sickle gave way to metal ones, which in turn evolved into grain hooks, mechanical reapers and binders. These tools – all on display and in working order – are the ancestors of the modern combine.

“Having these objects here gives people an idea of what the work was like before our modern tools,” Graef says. “It’s interesting to look at the field of farm equipment and see how far we’ve come.”

She says the annual Ag Progress Days event draws crowds of up about 8,000 people to the museum each year. Located a stone’s throw away from fields filled towering tractors and colossal combines, the museum houses a collection of antiquated farm equipment that once was as cutting edge as the equipment on display outside.

Jordan Mellott, 17, works on a farm in McConnellsburg and is president of his local chapter of the Future Farmers of America. Though no stranger to farm equipment, he came to the museum during the Ag Progress Days to learn more about the industry he loves.

“I like to understand how farming worked back in the day,” Mellott says. “Coming here helps me see how my grandpap would’ve farmed.”

Graef says it’s rewarding when people are able to make a personal connection with the museum’s collection.

“The first reaction of some of the older people that come through is often: ‘Oh! I remember that!’” Graef says. “They bring their story to what we have here, and that’s what makes these objects come alive.”

Greg Hackenberger of Snyder County grew up on a dairy farm, and as a child he used to come to Ag Progress Days with his father. Now he comes with his father and his own sons, who marveled at both the new equipment in the field and the old equipment in the museum.

His son Nate, 8, says its strange to see the new and the old so close together. He’s amazed that “everything went from these small things to these huge things that can do most of the work for you.”

Hackenberger says it’s important his sons understand the importance of agriculture in their lives, which is why he brings them to the festival. Though he admits farming is still hard work, he wants them to appreciate how much harder the work used to be.

Mellott says coming to Ag Progress Days and visiting the Pasto Agricultural Museum is a rewarding experience. Seeing the new and the old side-by-side creates an appreciation for how far modern technology has advanced that doesn’t come from seeing one without the other, he says.

“Who knows? Maybe in another 50 years, what’s out there in the field will be obsolete too,” Mellot says.

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Michael Garrett is a freelance reporter who covers a wide range of assignments for StateCollege.com.
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