Above / Honorary co-chairs for the Barn Raising Benefit included Wilbert Hageman, Richard Benck, Mary Benck and Ruth Hageman. (Photo courtesy Emma Vodick for Naper Settlement.)
On November 5, 2016, the Naperville Heritage Society raised $244,000 at the Barn Raising Benefit in support of Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretative Center. The private funds raised included a $50,000 matching donation by Rich and Mary Benck, founders of West Side Tractor Sales Co.
The casual “jeans and jackets” gathering attracted 310 guests to learn more about the museum’s mission to cultivate the future by providing fun, interactive experiences that foster the knowledge and appreciation of farming in Naperville and the region.
The Barn Raising Benefit took place under a large heated tent at Naper Settlement and was presented by the Naperville Heritage Society with Masters of Ceremony, WGN Radio’s Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong. The special evening included a cocktail reception, ceremony and dinner.
Guests enjoyed a beautiful, locally-sourced dinner by green restaurant and caterer Big Delicious Planet, while they received a preview and video, produced in-kind by Wight and Company, about Naper Settlement’s plans for the Agricultural Interpretive Center. Rich Benck’s restored tractors were also on display, along with the Allis-Chalmers tractor that was donated to NHS by the Wheatland Plowing Match Association.
The Agricultural Interpretive Center’s exhibitions, virtual technology and hands-on programming will showcase stories of real-life farming families of the past and teach the business and science of modern-day farming to Naper Settlement’s 140,400 annual visitors. Exhibits will also focus on farming innovation that will demonstrate the roles of analytical thinking, mechanical comprehension, a grasp of plant physiology and other intellectual processes that work under the banner of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — for the 33,520 students and teachers that visit the museum annually.
And when you see Brien Nagle, be sure to ask him what he had stashed under his baseball cap.
Barn Raising Event Committee, Etc.
Honorary co-chairs for the Barn Raising Benefit included Richard Benck, Mary Benck, Wilbert Hageman and Ruth Hageman. Event co-chairs for the evening were Mary Ann Bobosky and Brien Nagle.
The planning committee included Kathryn Birkett, Richard Clemmons, Sharon Covert, Dave Kelsch, Patty Lindstrom, Nina Menis, Leah Rippe and Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese.
The Naperville Heritage Society also expressed gratitude to the leading event sponsor, the Dunham Fund.
About Naper Settlement
Naper Settlement is a nationally accredited, award-winning outdoor museum set on 12 magnificent acres in the heart of Naperville, where history comes to play and community comes to connect. For more information, visit www.napersettlement.org or call (630) 420-6010.
PN Editor’s Fond Memories Related to Farming
My husband, Jim, and I are grateful to have experienced the recent farm-to-table dinner event at Naper Settlement. We were thrilled to meet up with many longtime local farm families we’ve known since Larry Gregory welcomed us to get involved with the Wheatland Plowing Match Association in the mid-1990s. Back then and for decades, their annual pig roasts and spaghetti dinners to raise funds for agri-scholarships provided many rewarding good times for a good cause. Every WPMA college scholarship was granted to encourage young individuals who had set their sights on farming and horticulture as a future career.
My grandfather, Marion Paul Mitchell, was an agricultural economist at Purdue. He always was learning from the past to teach for the future of farming. His specialties were cattle and soybeans. From his farm in Battle Ground, Ind., he traveled throughout Indiana, the nation and South America to teach farmers how to be better farmers. When he had business in Delaware County, he’d stay with us in Muncie, Ind., the county seat, where our family lived. I always was happy to tag along with him when he visited grain elevators and meat-packing plants—I’ll also always remember their distinguishing smells.
From the time I started grade school, I spent time every summer vacation on my grandparents’ farm in Battle Ground with the hogs, cows, steers, chickens, cats and collie dogs. I recall sitting on a three-legged stool alongside my uncles while they milked the cows. I watched my grandmother separate cream and pasteurize milk on the back porch. We canned fruits and vegetables from the family garden, placing the labeled Ball jars in order on shelves in the cool cellar.
During harvest in August, I set places at their large dining room table and helped my grandmother plan the big meal at lunch time every day for the hired hands. Many times after my grandmother picked a live chicken for lunch and put it on the chopping block, my task would be to pluck all its feathers so she could prepare it. I was never bored! I have fond memories of frugality, the incredible work ethic of my grandmother, listening to farm bureau reports on the radio and being prepared for a rainy day.
Looking toward Future Farming…
Unlike some local initiatives, the new agriculture interpretive center is something this Hoosier turned Napervillian can embrace for the future.
Agricultural history, education and interpretation are a look forward. It’s great food for thought and support. Certainly technology has advanced farming since the days the family farm dotted the Midwestern landscape. It’s definitely changed the landscape here in Naperville during the past 50 years. Yet the importance and intentions of farming remain the same.
Naperville’s early farm families are recognized along the Riverwalk at Eagle Street where the Earl Meisinger family donated an 1897 plow that marks the spot of the Farmer’s Plaza, representing the past with a look toward the future. The large granite monument is engraved with names of farm families.
As Wilbert Hageman used to remind me, “No farmers, no food.”
—Stephanie Penick, PN