The Oliver H. Kelley Farm is “Minnesota’s family farm” – the state’s premier location for exploring agricultural history. A National Historic Landmark (the highest designation given to a historic place), the 1860’s heritage farm serves nearly 30,000 visitors a year, about half of them students on field trips. Located within 35 miles of downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis, the Kelley Farm is a short driving distance for almost 75% of the state’s population.
The Friends of the Kelley Farm have been playing a key role in advocating for a significant revitalization of the Kelley Farm site that will dramatically expand the site’s ability to educate Minnesotans about farming and food in the past, present and future.
A capital budget request to the Governor and the Minnesota Legislature would fund an enhanced and more usable Historic Farmstead and Visitor Center. It would make possible an expansion into contemporary agriculture education. And, it would use video conferencing and other distance learning technologies to serve every Minnesota community, turning the Kelley Farm into an extension of our state’s classrooms.
The project proposes the installation of historic reconstructions of a windmill, ice house and smokehouse to expand educational programming about farming during Oliver Kelley’s time.
The Visitor Center
The existing Visitor Center lacks education and community space and necessary support functions. An upgraded Visitor Center would include a teaching kitchen, teaching greenhouse, classrooms, a community meeting room, expanded exhibition and public program spaces as well as amenities such as expanded rest rooms, museum store, offices and storage areas.
The Kelley Farm’s current program focuses on its 1860s heritage. The new vision would expand the program to encompass every aspect of farming, agricultural business and food from 1860s through the present day. This would mean modern livestock displays and work areas so the public experiences modern farm animals; plots of land where families can learn more about contemporary crops and how they’re developed, planted, grown, harvested and processed; heirloom and modern gardens where visitors learn skills they can apply at home–how to tend, harvest, prepare and preserve vegetables; and a four-season outdoor classroom and picnic shelter to serve students on field trips and other visitors. A modern livestock facility to provide husbandry care for farm animals and store equipment would also be part of the plan.
At the Kelley Farm, prairie restoration has been ongoing since 1982. With the planned revitalization, this would expand to include oak savannah woodland restoration. In addition, there would be a new focus on sustainable design at the farm, ranging from LEED-certified building and site development, to installation of a residential-scale windmill, to graywater recycling and a “green” roof for the visitor center.
A State Resource
A revitalized Kelley Farm will serve all of Minnesota as a hub for farm, agriculture and food information. This will be accomplished not only through in-person programs such as the teaching kitchen, greenhouse and gardens but also through distance learning technologies, including video conferencing and web access.