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Digging into local history

Digging into local history

Tulare County Historical Society hosts its annual picnic Oct. 6 at Mooney Grove Park


VISALIA – Toe tapping entertainment by the band Run 4 Cover and a delicious barbecue dinner provided by the Happy Cookers with ice cream by Haagen Dazs is in store for those who attend the Tulare County Historical Society’s annual picnic at Mooney Grove on Sunday, Oct. 6 from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Each year the Historical Society and Tulare County Museum work together to select a specific project to allocate funding in hopes of preserving the history that is housed at the Museum. 

Employing the theme, “Plowing Through Time”, the Historical Society is raising funds to help construct a building that will showcase restored farm equipment and to illustrate how local farming techniques have changed during the last century. The building will be constructed on the museum grounds, near the Tulare County History of Farm Labor & Agriculture Museum.

Carl Switzer, former historical society president, said nearly 200 pieces of farm equipment have been donated to the museum over the course of 70 years.

“But we’ve had no place to put it,” said Switzer. “It’s being stored in a pole barn with a roof, but no sides. The fog, wind and rain have taken their toll and, quite frankly, it’s become kind of an eyesore.” 

So Switzer, along with retired agriculture educator Don Vieira, formed a committee that surveyed the collection. 

“We met for a year and identified all of the equipment. We found that there was a lot of duplication – two or three of the same things. We ended up with 90 pieces that we thought could really illustrate how local agriculture has progressed over the last century.”

Following the inventory in 2018, Switzer and Vieira proposed to a dozen agriculture teachers in Kings and Tulare counties that their students take on the responsibility of restoring the equipment to its original form and function, while also learning about agriculture history.

“The response was enthusiastic,” recalled Switzer. “Nearly all of the teachers put their hands up offering to take a piece of the equipment.” 

The equipment, much of it in a deteriorated condition, is being restored to its original shine by students in Tulare and Kings counties with the help of their teachers. The results are now coming in from last school year. 

Strathmore High School students have restored a spring tooth cultivator and students in Corcoran have brought a Paypeck (used for chopping corn) back to life. 

“The Hanford FFA students restored a Deere and Mansur Planter (used for corn and beans) and were so proud of it that they showed it off at the Kings County Fair last July,” said Switzer. Other schools restoring equipment include El Diamante (cultivator), Central Valley Christian (moldboard plow), Golden West (grain drill), Visalia Technical Early College (disc harrow cultivator), and Mt. Whitney (cultivator).

In August, teachers from other schools also volunteered to participate in the restoration process and are in the process of selecting equipment. They are Porterville High School, Granite Hills, and Strathmore High School among others. 

“Connecting local students to agriculture history through this museum is important,” said Amy King, curator. “Years from now, they will come out to the museum and be able to claim ownership of the pieces, rather than viewing it as simply old stuff.”

The equipment is being restored, but there is still no place to display it.

“We can’t just put it outside to get weathered again,” cautioned King.

Switzer said that local builder Stan Miller, some years ago before he died, made a significant monetary contribution toward construction of a building and the Visalia Rotary clubs Foundation pitched in with a sizable donation. He added that the Tulare County Board of Supervisors have expressed support with some funding included in next year’s budget. The County will oversee the construction which, King is hopeful, will begin next year. 

“We’ve made good progress in planning the building that will showcase the students’ work,” said Switzer. “But we still need lots of support to put us over the top. I’m hoping everyone comes out to the picnic so we have funds necessary to complete the project.”

In addition to the musical entertainment and barbecue dinner, the museum will be open to tour for those attending the picnic. Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased at www.tularecountryhistoricalsociety.org, or by calling Peggy Bragg at 559-786-4972 or Stan Simpson at 559-280-3142.  

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