The Van Trump Report

What You Might Not Know About the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame

The U.S. National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas, more commonly known as the “Ag Center,” was chartered by Congress in 1960 to serve as the national museum of agriculture and a memorial to farming leaders. The 172-acre complex is one of the few museums in the country that focus specifically on farming and rural America. It also hosts the National Farmers Memorial, the only national memorial honoring farmers and their contributions to America.  

In 1957, Congress decided it wanted to create a National Agricultural Hall of Fame, and all 50 states vied to be home to the new attraction. Bonner Springs was selected and President Dwight Eisenhower signed its charter on August 31, 1960. After five years of construction, the museum at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame opened in 1965. Many of the items displayed at the museum’s opening are still exhibited at the site to this day, including a plow used by President Harry Truman’s family. NAC mainly focuses on the American farmer and farming, the rural heritage of agriculture in America, and the science and technology of farming that shapes the world of tomorrow.

The National Ag complex today is also home to several different attractions that are both educational and fun for the whole family. The Museum of Farming has more than 20,000 square feet of floor space devoted almost entirely to large antique farm machinery and implements. At the Rural Art Gallery, the center showcases rare artifacts that, along with Truman’s plow, include a 1903 Dart truck and a horse-drawn mail wagon.

The Smith House is another attraction located in the Ag Center complex. Donated by sisters Etta Blanche Smith-Dahlgreen and Kathryn Charlotte Smith-Wilcox, the building itself is a replica built for the Ag Center while the furnishings, appliances, and decorations inside are original to the Smith family’s 1890s home. It stands as a tribute to their pioneer parents and grandparents who came to Kansas from Wisconsin shortly after the Civil War. The Smith Event Barn is used for exhibits and special events, and can be rented for business meetings, parties, weddings and receptions.

And then there is Farm Town, a makeshift town depicting pioneer life. The one-room Island Creek School House was built in 1917 in Piper, Kansas, and used as a school until 1961. Youngsters can experience a day at school complete with state-accredited curriculum. Farm Town also contains a Hatchery, Blacksmith Shop and General Store. The miniature narrow-gauge Union Pacific train takes visitors for a ride around the lake. Vegetable, flower, and pollinator gardens, tended by the Wyandotte County Master Gardeners, are also scattered throughout the complex. They also have a 200-seat theater and 200-seat event barn!

The National Farmers Memorial sits at the entrance to the Ag Center complex. It was dedicated in 1989 to “the American Farmer past, present, and future.” Designed by nationally renowned artist and sculptor Lewis Watkins, the memorial, titled simply “The American Farmer”, features three 10×11 bronze and steel panels that weigh approximately 1.5 tons each. The first panel shows the American farmer of the past, sowing the fields by hand with his wife and child beside him. The second panel represents the present-day farmer at the beginning of the season, facing the challenge of a new year. In the third panel, a young man sits upon a futuristic tractor, a reminder that the future lies with our youth.

The Ag Center also hosts several cool annual events and some of the biggest fan favorites are coming up this fall. On October 16, NAC hosts the International Lineman’s Rodeo, where more than 5,000 utility linemen from all over the world compete in various pole-climbing contests. And every December, they host the Santa’s Express holiday lights drive-thru and visit with Santa, a benefit for Harvesters. This years even runs December 3-5 and 10-12.

Although Congress chartered the National Ag Center, it does not receive any government funding and is therefore dependent solely on private and corporate donations generated through admission, special events, and event rentals. To learn more, check out the website HERE.

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