Time does fly when you are having fun! Our 2019 season was chock full of programs and projects. Our season theme this year was “Stewardship of the Land,” one of our five main interpretive themes. This was thoughtfully chosen to highlight our activities for the season and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Living History Farms.
We also hosted a traveling exhibit from Purdue University on the “Secret Lives of Honey Bees,“ tying to our season theme and educating our younger visitors about the importance of pollinators.
We built a Sukup Safe T Home® to expand our agricultural story, making connections between farming of the past and innovation of the future. When you visit, you will see how the Sukup family invention of their grain bin has turned into a lasting form of humanitarian relief around the world, providing more secure housing for orphanages and families affected by natural disasters. This project was the result of a partnership opportunity brought to us by Polk County Farm Bureau in conjunction with Sukup Manufacturing Co. and GoServ Global.
Our priority preservation project this year was what we lovingly refer to as ‘the Red Barn,’ located behind the blacksmith shop. This building has stored nearly 1,000 collections objects for decades but was falling below museum standards for a proper collections storage facility and has not been open to tour for several years. Our facilities team has brought new life to this old structure and we are delighted to share that it will be open for public viewing next season when we debut an exhibit about our 50-year anniversary and our 2020 season theme, “Faces of farming.” We look forward to hosting many more exhibits here in the future.
This year, we received guests from all 50 states and 17 foreign countries. We held a host of new events including the Food and Farm Festival this past spring.
Our endowment continues to grow thanks to the generosity of many donors who are dedicated to ensuring that Living History Farms continues to educate and engage our community and its visitors for many years to come.
The economic impact of Living History Farms has steadily increased to more than $5.5 million. This includes 174 FTE jobs in the community, local government revenue of more than $250,000 and state government revenue of more than $325,000. This impact is based on calculations from Americans for the Arts.
I would like to extend a special thank you to the Iowa Department of Transportation who partnered with us this year to revitalize our creek area and greenspace at the eastern front of our property. As the plantings grow, this project will allow us to create a picnic area and walking nature trail for our guests to enjoy.
We have also spent quite a bit of time behind the scenes planning for the future. What will the next 50 years of service to the community hold for Living History Farms? As we look ahead to 2020, we will be adding a sixth interpretive theme to our repertoire on civic engagement. With the caucuses looming, it is an ideal time to unveil new programming around this theme. The town of Walnut Hill will also change its interpretation slightly from 1875 to 1876 in preparation for the semiquincentennial that will be here before you know it in 2026.