HANFORD — Nearly 200 pieces of farm equipment have been donated to the Tulare County Museum over the course of 70 years, and Hanford students had a hand in bringing some of the equipment back to life.
Each year, the Tulare County Historical Society and Tulare County Museum work together to select a specific project to allocate funding in hopes of preserving the history that is housed at the museum.
Employing the theme, “Plowing Through Time”, the Historical Society is raising funds to help construct a building that will showcase restored farm equipment and to illustrate how local farming techniques have changed during the last century.
The building will be constructed on the museum grounds, near the Tulare County History of Farm Labor & Agriculture Museum.
Currently, all the equipment the museum had was stored in a pole barn with a roof but no sides, said former historical society president Carl Switzer.
“The fog, wind and rain have taken their toll and, quite frankly, it’s become kind of an eyesore,” Switzer said.
So Switzer, along with retired agriculture educator Don Vieira, formed a committee that surveyed the collection. Switzer said the committee met for a year and found lots of duplication — two or three of the same pieces.
“We ended up with 90 pieces that we thought could really illustrate how local agriculture has progressed over the last century,” he said.
Following the inventory in 2018, Switzer and Vieira proposed to a dozen agriculture teachers in Kings and Tulare counties that their students take on the responsibility of restoring the equipment to its original form and function, while also learning about agriculture history.
“The response was enthusiastic,” recalled Switzer. “Nearly all of the teachers put their hands up offering to take a piece of the equipment.”
The equipment, much of it in a deteriorated condition, was being restored to its original shine by students in both counties with the help of their teachers.
Around 10-15 Hanford High School FFA students from different ag classes restored a Deere and Mansur Planter, which was used for corn and beans.
Student included Michael Berna, Kaden Lewis, Chase Herman, Carsen Avila and Jacob Mueller.
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The students said the planter came in large parts and was severely rusted.
After taking the planter apart, the students said they grinded and sandblasted the pieces, then put primer and painted it. Finally, they put it back together based on pictures they had taken beforehand.
The project was done while the students completed other projects for their classes, so they said it took them about three months to complete. The students said they like doing big projects and being able to see the finished project.
“It’s pretty cool to see something that was used over 100 years ago and put it back to where it looks brand new, pretty much, and better than it did before,” Lewis said.
The proud students entered the restored into the Kings County Fair and won first place in the “Best in Show” category.
Students in Corcoran also brought a Paypeck back to life, which is used for chopping corn.
“Connecting local students to agriculture history through this museum is important,” said Amy King, curator. “Years from now, they will come out to the museum and be able to claim ownership of the pieces, rather than viewing it as simply old stuff.”
While the equipment was restored, there is still no place to display it.
“We can’t just put it outside to get weathered again,” King said.
Along with donations from individuals and groups, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors has expressed support with some funding included in next year’s budget, Switzer said. The county will oversee the construction which, King is hopeful, will begin next year.
On Oct. 6, the Historical Society will also host a barbecue picnic dinner to raise funds for the building that will house the restored equipment.
“We’ve made good progress in planning the building that will showcase the students’ work,” Switzer said. “But we still need lots of support to put us over the top. I’m hoping everyone comes out to the picnic so we have funds necessary to complete the project.”