Hidden Jewel of Kansas: The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame

Exploring the treasures in the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, located not too far from Kansas City, Missouri.

| October/November 2015

In the midst of Kansas and Missouri lies a gleaming gemstone known as the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, or as it’s fondly known, the Kansas Ag Hall of Fame. On my venture to this destination I stumbled upon known sights such as the Kansas City Renaissance fairground and the Kansas Speedway. Yet nestled in the very overgrown land is this museum of a forgotten time. I double- and triple-checked my GPS to make sure the coordinates were right for where I was, but the gargantuan sign didn’t lie and I had indeed arrived. I felt a certain shame for having lived in Kansas my whole life, and not knowing that this amazing museum was out here waiting for me to discover.

Speaking with volunteers at the museum, I discovered that I wasn’t alone for not having known about this splendid trove of vintage farm relics and engines. If you are a Kansas or Missouri native reading this and are racking your brain wondering where the museum is, it’s 18 miles due west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

While researching the museum online, a particular passage on the museum website struck me: “Agriculture touches the lives of every living person. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way of life that developed the values, economy, and culture of our nation all find root in agriculture. Yet, today, few people understand or appreciate agriculture as the dynamic and pervasive force that has shaped our nation’s past and that will shape the world’s future.” It’s a notion we take for granted in today’s world of instant gratification, not knowing how much hard work went into harvesting food or materials for clothing and other goods in the early days of our country.

At the museum entrance you are greeted with state flags of the U.S., symbolizing the diversity of our nation. Inside the first building, which houses many farm remnants and stands as the welcome center for all who enter, I promptly made a beeline for the vintage gas engines I had inquired about before my visit. Never having actually seen one in person, I wanted to see if they lived up to the picture in my head, so I made my way to the building known as the Museum of Farming.

One thing I remember being told was that the old farm engines could be bigger than some modern-day cars and weigh twice as much. I met with Ray Morgan, who has been the building and grounds coordinator for the museum for five years, and before he came to the museum he was a mechanic for 40 years. He took me over to the sections of gas engines that the museum houses.

Looking over the museum’s fire engine red, 20 hp 1912 International Harvester Victor, Ray explained to me how the engines came to the museum as donations, owing to the museum’s small budget. Fortunately, there are people kind enough to part with their engines so that everyone can get a glimpse into the workings of the power of the past.