Slate Run Living Historical Farm to celebrate its 40th birthday

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
A golden wheat field is a beautiful sight and its appearance in July means it is grain threshing season at Metro Parks’ Slate Run Living Historical Farm, 1375 State Route 674 N., near Canal Winchester. Each July the farm workers use a 19th century era horse powered threshing machine to separate the seed heads of wheat, oats, barley and rye from straw stalks. Our 19th and early 20th century Central Ohio farming ancestors used a machine similar to this. The wheat is planted in October, lies dormant in the winter, grows again in the spring, and ripens in July when it is harvested. After threshing, the wheat is sold for profit, fed to livestock, and some is saved for seed. Pictured here, wheat stalks are tossed into the thresher from the farm wagon. Threshing is hot, dusty work. One worker stands atop a wagon piled high with wheat and uses a pitchfork to toss the wheat to another who runs it through the thresher. After the wheat is separated the straw flies out a chute where another worker piles it up.

History will be having a birthday party down on the farm.

Metro Parks’ Slate Run Living Historical Farm. – located at 1375 State Route 674 North, Canal Winchester – will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an “Ice Cream Social and Anniversary” program on Aug. 21 from 1-3 p.m. The farm will also be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day. There is no cost for admission or for the activities at the working farm, which is a historical representation of a typical Ohio small farm in the 1880s.

“There will be games and activities representative of the time,” said Ann Culek, farm program manager at Slate Run Living Historical Farm. “We are delighted to welcome storyteller Adele Browne, who was one of our original volunteers, to provide some entertainment.”

Culek said the event is an ice cream social, so enjoy a scoop!

“Sorry, it’s not homemade,” said Culek. “We hope visitors appreciate the advantages of 2021, when you can just run to the grocery store and buy a gallon of ice cream to keep in the freezer for whenever you want it. In the 1880s, ice cream was a special treat.”

Consider all the steps necessary to make ice cream in those days.

“First, a trip to an ice house for a chunk of ice harvested from a local pond or canal from the previous winter to crush, then milking the cow and skimming the cream, getting eggs from the chickens to add into custard cooked carefully over a wood burning cookstove, and then cranking the ice cream freezer for about an hour before you enjoyed the treat,” said Culek. “Hopefully everyone will enjoy their visit here, but, along with the fun we hope you have and the memories you make, the farm can get you thinking, just a bit, about how you live now compared to then.”

A farm worker begins to pile up the straw after it has passed through the thresher. Nothing is wasted on the farm, so after threshing the straw is used for livestock bedding, mulching paths and gardens, insulating walls, making strawboard (similar to cardboard), and as packing material.

The concept for Slate Run Living Historical Farm came about after Metro Parks purchased the land for it over a period of years in the 1960s.

“The idea of a living historical farm started to form around the American bicentennial in 1976 and, after research and extensive restoration, Slate Run Living Historical Farm opened to the public in 1981,” said Culek.

According to Culek, Metro Parks opened the farm so the public could compare how land in Central Ohio was managed through time.

“Many Ohioans lived on farms throughout the 19th century and the time period of the 1880s was chosen as a time of great transformation in how farming was done and before the large migration of people to the cities,” said Culek. “It gives visitors a glimpse into lifestyles, technology, and choices available to a Central Ohio farm family in the 1880s and a way to compare the way we live now with those some who came before.”

Workers at the farm try to show that change is a constant and all people from all eras and backgrounds adapt to it.

Metro Parks Slate Run Living Historical Farm workers Natelle Ball (left) and Donna Abel working at the cast iron stove in the 1880s era farmhouse kitchen.

“Sometimes changes improve our lives, some aspects complicate it,” said Culek. “It makes me chuckle to hear visitors lament how life in the 1880s was so hard and they would never have survived, and it was very different in some aspects compared to ours. But the people who lived on this farm were so proud of their modern lifestyle: a cook stove versus a fireplace, the new fangled steam engines and improved steel farm equipment that made their lives far easier than those of their grandparents era.”

When asked how the farm has changed over the past 40 years, Culek said it has gotten better with age in many ways.

“When newly opened, the trees were immature, the land bulldozed, and new fences installed,” said Culek. “After 40 years it looks settled and I think very realistic. Even with 40 years of knowledge about a family farm in the 1880s, there is always something new the staff and volunteers learn to compare and contrast the lifestyles of those from the past to share with modern visitors.”

She said especially helpful is original source material like newspapers and books available on the Internet.

“The staff once spent hours at in-person auctions and antique stores and now we find many items on eBay or through online searches,” said Culek.

The farm is an good place to bring people of all ages as there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn.

“The toys and games, the no admission charge, and the animals are some of the main draws,” said Culek. “It is generally a quiet place that offers a break from your electronics and a chance to be outside and engage with your friends and family. It is heartening to see how much fun some families have just shelling corn, poking through the garden, and playing on the swing.”

Culek said a favorite aspect of the farm for all the staff and volunteers who work there is the connections made with visitors.

“Sometimes it is the ‘light bulb’ moment of realizing milk is warm when it comes out of the cow,” said Culek. “It is fun to see people try something for the first time, like digging a potato out of the ground. We also learn from our visitors who come from all parts of the community, from around the United States, and sometimes the world. Their stories and experiences will be part of history some day. We feel it is a privilege to have the opportunity to work at Slate Run Living Historical Farm and to have so many positive interactions with visitors.”

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