It may be the end of the harvest season, but there’s something exciting and new growing at Primrose Farm.
The St. Charles Park District is working on design concepts for a new Agricultural Lab at the working farm. The new fully-accessible building, slated to be located on the west side of the farmstead, will include multipurpose programming areas as well as room for exhibits, storage, offices and indoor restrooms.
The project is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grant Program, which awarded $750,000 to the park district to help offset estimated construction costs of $1.6 million.
The new building will allow farm staff to store its collections of small farm machinery and equipment in a safe, temperature-controlled environment as well as make them accessible to the general public visiting the farm. Today, the staff uses the farmhouse basement, which was originally a root cellar, as its onsite office and storage space.
“Providing a safe, indoor, permanent location for exhibits will be an asset to the farm’s educational experiences,” said Alison Jones, Manager of Farm Programs and Interpretive Services.
“The hatchery, for example, isn’t seen by many visitors because of its location”, added Jones.
Learning first-hand about chick hatching is just one of the many ways farm staff plans to make an impact with this new building. The experience of this cycle of life starts with an incubator and fertile chicken eggs. The delicate life process is uncovered during several weeks of incubation until the eggs start cracking and the chicks emerge from their shells. For the hatchlings to survive, they continue to need heat, water and food until they can make it outside.
“Sharing the excitement of hatching chicks with families, especially young children, is rewarding,” said Jones.
Farm discovery classes that teach roles of working a dairy farm and include tasks such as stacking firewood, scrubbing laundry, hauling water, mixing feed or churning butter are just a few of the current program opportunities.
“We’re looking to expand our STEM program offerings for our community,” said Alison Jones, Manager of Farm Programs and Interpretive Services.
Jones said the park district would like to use the new building to host classes with a focus on the sciences, engineering, agricultural and even food preservation and production.
“I’m very interested in showcasing how farming technology has evolved over the years from simple machines to the massive equipment used today,” said Jones.
“I’d also like to establish farm-to-table cooking demonstrations and classes, using farm fresh products grown in our garden plots or fruit orchard,” added Jones.
Agriculture education affects many aspects of daily living – food, clothing, entertainment, education, to name a few. Crayons are made from soy beans. Pencils come from trees. And, t-shirts are woven from cotton. The key concepts of science or math learned in a farm setting develop future veterinarians, scientists, nutritionists and more.
Primrose Farm, which opened in 2008, is the place to experience farm life. Visitors can explore the historic buildings, meet the barnyard animals and even participate in their daily care through programming and special events. For more information as this initiative develops and current program opportunities, visit primrosefarm.org.