On a recent Saturday morning, I visited the Hardin Country Farm Museum near Eldora as part of a "barn-themed" bus tour organized by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area organization. At this 20-acre site in north-central Iowa, visitors can step back in time to experience family farm life in the first half of the 20th Century, before the widespread use of large-scale, self-propelled modern farm equipment.
The museum itself has an interesting story--one of Iowans coming together to preserve their community's history. In 1995 the owners of the property decided to raze all the buildings on the site, and unfortunately, the 1880s portion of the barn along with several other structures were demolished before a group of Eldora citizens petitioned the owner to save the remaining buildings. The owner donated 2 acres containing a 1940s-era dairy barn and other small structures. Volunteers worked for three years to restore the buildings and add the display museum on the second floor of the dairy barn. The museum held its official grand opening on August 8, 1998.
Since then, the non-profit museum organization has added acreage to house other building which was donated and moved to the site. These include the Ellis Country Church and the one-room Goose Creek Schoolhouse, which are fun to explore. Other buildings contain tractors and other antique farm equipment and tools.
On certain Saturdays from April to October, pancake breakfasts are served in the lower level of the barn from 7:00 am - 9:30 am. This includes pancakes, sausage patties, fruit cocktail, coffee and juice, all served by smiling volunteers. Fortify yourself with this hearty breakfast before ascending the steps near the entrance to the upper-level museum, which contains thousands of all types of old but sometimes familiar household and farm items. I lingered in the kitchen section, which displayed washboards, wringer washers, rotary mixers, and stovetop toasters along with many other items, and the music section which showcased a Victor phonograph player and antique radios. I imagine that children would enjoy having older generations explain how they--or their grandparents--used some of the tools or other items.
The museum is open to the public on pancake days and special events, or by chance or appointment, and admission is by donation. Here's a schedule of remaining events for 2018:
Saturday, July 7: Pancake Breakfast
Saturday, July 28: 20th Anniversary Celebration: Pancake Breakfast, box lunch, threshing, activities
Saturday, August 18: Pancake Breakfast + Greenbelt Tractorcade
Saturday, September 1: Pancake Breakfast
Saturday, October 6: Fall Harvest Festival, including pancake breakfast, harvest meal, and activities
Saturday, October 13: Soup Supper and Family Barn Dance
Whether you visit the Hardin County Farm Museum to celebrate its 20th Anniversary or just come for pancakes and a walk down memory lane, it's worth the drive through scenic farmland to visit this museum preserving our state's agricultural history.
Image credit: Laura Ostrem