Brooklyn Park gets Legacy funding for traveling potato farm

What do you do when you can’t convince your community to visit a historic 1900-era potato farm? You bring the potato farm to them.

Eidem farm photo.jpg That’s the idea behind the city of Brooklyn Park’s “traveling trunk” project. The city found out this week that they’ll be receiving $7,000 in state Legacy funding to kickstart their efforts to assemble a trunk full of historical artifacts — tools, toys, clothing, photos, and other items — that can be delivered to schools and community groups to tell the story of life on Eidem Homestead.

The farm sits on ten acres of city-owned land. The city’s website explains:

Today, the farm is like a time machine, transporting you back to the turn of the twentieth century, a time when Brooklyn Park was one of the nation’s top potato growing areas. Step through our gates into a world in which a bushel of potatoes cost twenty-five cents and a pound of butter cost fifteen cents. Split logs fueled the wood burning stove, which kept the kitchen warm and was used for cooking meals and heating water. Farmers plowed the fields with a team of horses or oxen. Wives churned butter, made the family clothing and pumped the water to wash it.

Despite all this historical farm activity, it’s been tough to attract visitors. The city’s grant application says that school tours have declined in recent years. It adds:

According to many educators, one reason for the decline is the cost of obtaining a bus and driver for field trips. And while we have had visitors in wheelchairs, some parts of the site, such as the upstairs bedrooms and the tool shed, are not fully accessible. Also, here in Brooklyn Park, we have a large ethnically diverse population, yet, despite our best efforts, our visitor demographic does not reflect that.

The farm is also closed from December to May each year. Jon Oyanagi, Brooklyn Park’s director of recreation and parks, said the year-round traveling trunk program will help the city make better use of its historical resources. Most of the grant money will go toward staff time.

Similar trunks programs are in place across the country. There are Grand Canyon trunks and Winston Churchill trunks. There’s even an aquatic invasive species trunk

The city of Brooklyn Park hopes to have its trunk ready to travel by April 2012.

Photo of Eidem Homestead courtesy of the city of Brooklyn Park.