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Ag history presented at breakfast

Don Meyer, guest curator at the McLean County Museum of History, talks with attendees of Thursday's Ag Awareness Breakfast in Bloomington / CIFN photo.

BLOOMINGTON – Those attending the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Ag Awareness Breakfast Thursday received a history lesson courtesy of Don Meyer.

The guest curator at the McLean County Museum of History gave a keynote speech on agriculture in the county over the years and presented a sneak peak of a brand new exhibit opening at the Bloomington museum this Saturday. Meyer and others spent the better part of the past three years searching for artifacts while allowing people of McLean County to tell the story.

“The ag community has shown the museum how this works and I think it’s been successful,” Meyer said.

Exhibits for “Farming in the Great Corn Belt” were organized by theme. Meyer explained how glaciers helped shape the Central Illinois landscape and how ridges resulted from pauses in ice movement. Also, the initial price for farmland in McLean County was $1.25 per acre, but owners had to pay cash back then.

“Many of our early settlers came here and had to wait for the land to be surveyed,” Meyer explained.

Livestock was often moved on foot to go to market and the largest landowner in the 1850’s was the Funk family. The Funks had a great influence on the seed industry as Funk Seeds was founded in 1901 by Eugene Funk and his 12 family members. A new technology feature for the mid-1800’s was check row planting.

“We were precision planting long before Precision Planting came about,” added Meyer.

The early days of farming saw several patents and inventions such as windmills, which arrived in the 1880’s. This was long before the large wind turbines of today. German immigrants are credited with bringing several drainage ideas with them when they settled in this area.

More information on local ag history can be obtained by visiting the new exhibit once it opens this weekend. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday. The McLean County Museum of History is located at 200 North Main Street in Bloomington and can be found online at:

Also at Thursday’s breakfast, Carolyn Hansen of University of Illinois Extension discussed the 115th anniversary of 4-H. McLean County is number one in the state for 4-H membership and the public can visit to find out more about a new campaign called, “Raise Your Hand.” The local 4-H Foundation could receive money through this initiative.

At the start of the morning program, Molly Schempp from Olympia High School gave the FFA Creed while Micah Mohr from Parkside Junior High School presented the 4-H Pledge. Anna Ziegler of McLean County Farm Bureau announced the FFA Service Award Winners while Emily Saddler from the U of I Extension revealed the Maitland Scholarship Fund recipients.

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