Sep 17, 2010

Culture of agriculture | The Journal Gazette | Fort Wayne, IN

Salomon park fulfills family’s vision

As a keynote speaker at a symposium on historic farms, Dr. John Ikerd (University of Missouri) said that historic farms were “putting culture back in agriculture.” He was referring to the fact that most large farms today are more “agribusiness” and are therefore run like a large business.
Dr. Ikerd believed that in this fast-paced world, the culture of the American farm family and its customs and traditions were being lost. He was very pleased when he learned that the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department is trying to keep the culture of the old farm alive in our city.
Salomon Farm was donated to the city of Fort Wayne in 1995, and the Parks and Recreation Department began an adventure that continues to this day.
When we were given this farm by the Salomon family, it was like having a blank canvas presented to us. We, the artists, were allowed to paint the pieces of what was to become a beautiful park with a quiet, peaceful and bucolic setting. All of this was created in an area of heavy residential and commercial growth. This farm stands in stark contrast to its surroundings and hence has become a place of refuge from our hectic lives.
A lot has changed at the 170-acre farm at 917 W. Dupont Road. The bricks and mortar of park enhancement and renovation quickly began falling into place. Most of the renovation was driven by the efforts of Don Wolf, a local retired businessman and philanthropist. Mr. Wolf has been instrumental in our fund- raising and plan development. We were faced with trying to create a “working farm” that would also have a natural setting and be attractive to our visitors. Mr. Wolf made personal contributions of money and time, speaking to foundations and private citizens to raise more than $1.4 million initially. These funds helped renovate the 1880s historic barn and two outbuildings and construct a restroom facility, Learning Center building and two large storage barns. As Mr. Wolf says, “I’ve never been afraid to ask people for money to support projects I believe in.”
In the midst of all this construction, we found a club of antique tractor owners that was interested in farming the ground at Salomon. One request of the late Christian Salomon was that we farm in the style of the 1930s and ’40s. The Tri State Two Cylinder Club fulfilled this request.
Each year, they donate more than 2,700 hours of their time to planting, caring for and harvesting crops at Salomon Farm Park. The club is now headquartered at the farm, and they house some of their antique equipment there. The Two Cylinder Club puts on our largest event, the Fall Harvest Festival, taking place this year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 24 and 25. This festival is about food grown at the farm and shows how food was harvested in the 1930s era. We partner with members of the Amish community in Allen County; they will demonstrate cow milking, cream separation and butter-making. And since it’s a festival, we have music, hay rides, food concessions and much more.
We have many valued partners at Salomon Farm, including our volunteer gardeners and the DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association. The Maumee Valley Blacksmiths agreed to adopt Salomon as a satellite meeting place for their club. They help with festivals by putting on blacksmithing demonstrations, and this year we were able to generate enough revenue to create a blacksmith’s shed to use for demonstrations and blacksmith classes.
The youth in our area benefit from our Farmin’ Fun Day Camp that rivals Franke Park Day Camp in popularity and creates those wonderful childhood memories that last forever. The camp integrates hands-on farming such as gardening, animal care and nature exploration. The older children have a more active role in crop growing and vegetable gardening and sell their organic produce at the Salomon Farmers’ Market.
The future is wide open for Salomon Farm Park. We are in process of developing the Heritage Barn. This would be a type of display barn showing antique farm equipment and appliances. We are developing a woodworking shop (an interior room of our equipment barn) where we plan to offer woodworking classes. And we are starting a honeybee operation. We hope to sell our own brand of honey at our Farmers’ Market. Another idea for the future is to have kids who attend Farmin’ Fun Camp raise and market their own brand of popcorn.
Finally, we adopted Dr. Ikerd’s words as our motto. You will find it on our logo and other areas around the farm. We are actively helping to “put culture back in agriculture” at Salomon Farm Park.

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