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American Museum of Agriculture on the Grow

Written by , published July 24, 2013

There’s a new museum taking root in Lubbock.

Well, the Museum of American Agriculture isn’t brand new, but it’s expanding in a new location and remains one of the better-kept secrets among tourism activities in the Panhandle-Plains.

The Museum of American Agriculture opened in an extra building at the American Wind Power Center in 2002. In 2011, the museum moved across the street to its new 25-acre property, and in 2012, it opened a 27,000-square-foot exhibit hall.

“We want to be a learning and exposure experience for the younger generation of how their food gets to the table,” says Dan Taylor, a Ropesville farmer who serves as president of the museum’s board of directors.

 Dan Taylor, the American Museum of Agriculture's board president, says the museum aims to educate visitors about farming, both past and present.

Visitors can learn about a broad swath of agricultural history and technology at the museum, particularly related to farming in the Panhandle-Plains.

Educational signs explain the use of the old plows, reapers, and thrashers on display. There’s also a collection of dozens of immaculately restored vintage tractors, most of which look like they just exited the manufacturing plant in the 1930s, ’40s, or ’50s.

An exhibit on cotton farming walks visitors through the development of cotton gins. It’s interesting to see the industry's progression from an ancient  hand-powered wooden implement from India, capable of producing five pounds of finished cotton per day, to Eli Whitney’s 1793 cotton gin capable of producing 50 pounds per day, to a contemporary Lummus Corp. gin with a production capacity of 10,000 pounds of finished cotton per hour.

The museum also features an exhibit about blacksmithing. The exhibit is set in a blacksmith’s shop, and a blacksmith portrayed by a video hologram character explains his trade.

There are new facilities under development at the museum, which is currently constructing a second phase with an educational hall that will feature interactive exhibits, new offices, a gift shop, and a meeting space. Dan says the second phase is scheduled to open in April 2014. A third phase—not yet funded or scheduled—would include artifact-storage space and a classroom aimed at elementary-school children.

Dan says the museum plans for the exhibits in the second phase to be interactive and representative of modern farming practices. For example, the museum is studying the option of including an interactive harvesting machine, which would allow visitors to get in the cab of the machine and live the experience.

Dan says part of the museum’s goal is to educate visitors about an industry that most people are increasingly removed from.

“Before World War II, such a high percent of people lived on farms or in rural communities,” he says. “Today, it’s about 1.5 percent of the population that’s actually involved in the production of agriculture. Every generation is getting further away from it. There are people in Lubbock, Texas, right here in the middle of agriculture, who think milk came from the United Supermarket.”

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