News Column

Old Farm and Home Days/Fiber Festival at LaFargeville agricultural museum offers glimpse into past

August 18, 2014

By Rebecca Madden, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

Aug. 18--LAFARGEVILLE -- Before do-it-yourself projects became a sensation through social media sites, there were simple ways of life that provided hands-on learning for generations.

That sentiment has been a part of the core mission of the Northern New York Agricultural Historical Society since its inception in the late 1960s. Reminders of the pride people took in their own work and home life was reflected during the annual Old Farm and Home Days/Fiber Festival, held Saturday and Sunday on the museum's grounds, 30650 State Route 180.

"Our young people aren't exposed to the way things were done and how they got done," said Maureen L. Bartlett, interim president of the organization. "We're hoping to bring in enough kids and parents, and teach them how to be self-sufficient."

Learning about farm life in the 1800s and early 1900s will give children and young adults knowledge of where their food, clothing, furniture and other items may stem from, according to museum volunteer Donna Eisele. She said Jefferson County has been a prime dairy area, even before technological advancements with today's milking processes.

One of the highlights of the weekend show was representatives of the Jefferson County Dairy Princess County doing butter-making demonstrations.

Julianna E. Monaghan, 13, churned eight ounces of heavy white cream for about 20 minutes before draining the buttermilk from the light yellow, fresh butter. Through a process called "washing the butter," she poured water into the churn, mixed it some more and then separated the remaining additional liquid.

"Nothing was wasted then," said Connie LaClair, a member of the Jefferson County Agricultural Promotion Board. "They'd use (buttermilk) for baking, and have fresh butter for their meals."

She said while homemade butter is more popular in the local Amish communities; butter making can be a fun, family activity for everyone.

Mrs. LaClair said before the days of driving to the store and purchasing heavy cream from a refrigerated case, farmers would skim the heavy cream off the top of the collected milk supply from dairy cows to use for the butter.

Another skill festival attendees learned was spinning wool into yarn. Some children also practiced weaving on looms as they observed volunteers operate spinning wheels.

"I hope they get an appreciation for a way things used to be done, and how advancements came about," Mrs. Eisele said.

With gardening, people in the 1800s and early 1900s more commonly lived off of their land, she said.

"We want (children) to see it doesn't always come out of a box or freezer," she said.

Other weekend highlights included a classic car show, blacksmithing demonstrations, a quilt show, tractor and gas engine displays, threshing demonstrations, saw mill demonstrations and games for children.

The museum, which operates only from June 1 to Sept. 30, also hosts hundreds of fourth-grade students annually in June, with more specific olden day's functions. Mrs. Eisele said another volunteer gathers youths in the one-room school house on the grounds and teaches lessons based on how school used to be so long ago. Students get to practice writing with quill pens and blueberry ink.

Proceeds from the Old Farm and Home Days/Fiber festival will benefit the museum's operations. Guests also were asked to make a financial contribution to the museum's fund to replace the roof of the historic Union Church on the nonprofit's grounds.

Mrs. Bartlett said fundraising has just begun, and the museum would like to raise a total $25,000.

For more information, or to donate, call 658-2353 or visit


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Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)

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