City kids who never had a chance to churn butter or see real chickens or ride behind a team of work horses got their chance last Sunday at Schumacher Farm Park just outside Waunakee.
It was the farm history park’s annual heritage festival that brought from 500-700 people on a beautiful summer afternoon to the farm.
Volunteers explained old trappings of farm life, like a cream separator while a Sun Prairie-based bluegrass band, the Soggy Prairie Boys, played a variety of music inside the old stone-foundation of the farm’s original barn.
Visitors had a chance to tour the original farmhouse built in 1906 for $5,000. In the parlor and dining room volunteers darned, knitted and spun wool to show how things were done in the "old days."
In the kitchen, the old wood stove was cranked up to heat apple cider. Outside, a steam traction engine was being used to cook corn on the cob that visitors could partake of.
It was a vision of Marcella Schumacher Pendall, who grew up in the house and lived there until she died in 1993, that events like this could connect young people to the history of farming — especially the time she knew so well, right when horses gave way to mechanized methods of farming.
Because of her vision to create a living history museum for farming, Schumacher Pendall donated 40 acres of her pioneering family homestead to Dane County as a conservancy in 1978.
Even as she continued to live at her ancestral home, she created the Friends of Schumacher Farm in 1986 to create and run the living history farm museum. Upon her death she left a trust account to provide major funding for the activities of this committee.
Dane County’s park system, the Friends group and the trust are all important parts of fulfilling her goal for preservation and restoration of the farm as well as education about early rural life for future generations.
Kids visiting the farmhouse likely had no idea that farm women spent each Monday doing their laundry the hard way.
A heritage garden near the house shows where much of the food for a farm family would have come from back in the early settlement days. Today, it also supplies fresh produce to the Waunakee Food Pantry.
Carrie Karls, a member of the Friends board, said Schumacher Pendall was an educator and saw the need for children in the modern world to learn about the foundation of agriculture that came before them in early settlement days.
The home is original to the property as is the one old barn. But other smaller buildings have been moved in from other neighboring farms — including a corn crib, grainary and chicken coop.
The newest addition was an outhouse with a side for women and a side for men that was moved to the site from Springfield Corners when a highway was widened.
Throughout the summer the farm hosts events like hymn singing, walks in the restored prairie and ice cream socials, Karls said. But events like Heritage Fest on Sept. 16 and Halloween at the Farm really bring in the crowds.
Diane Schwartz, who works for the Friends of Schumacher Farm as site coordinator, said Schumacher Pendall really envisioned a park like Old World Wisconsin where people could learn about an early era by seeing and doing things the way they were done back then.
The county park system owns the buildings, she explained, but the Friends are responsible for maintenance issues.
"This is the 20th Heritage Fest at the farm and we are very excited," Schwartz said. "It’s difficult to really count how many people are here today but I would expect that we will have 500 to 700 visitors."
The event is one of several the Friends group uses to build membership throughout the year. "It raises awareness to help us fund things we’d like to do. We think of this as the Aldo Leopold Center, only for farming."
Schwartz and Karls said one of their goals is to hold more events for children throughout the summer when kids are off school, possibly sponsoring activities that could serve as mini-day camps.
Local support on Sunday was evident as Waunakee FFA chapter members donated their time to help with concessions and kids games. Other volunteers, Schwartz said, hailed from the Lions Club and Boy Scouts as well as numerous community members who just want to help with the farm event.
"Marcella’s dream was to not let this die. She would be very happy today," said Schwartz.