Archive for Monday, November 30, 2009

Ag Hall of Fame looks to cultivate attendance

November 30, 2009

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On the street

Have you ever visited the Agricultural Hall of Fame?

I have not; never really thought about it.

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— The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame is taking steps to boost attendance and avoid having to close its doors.

The Bonner Springs facility, which next summer celebrates the 50th anniversary of receiving its congressional charter to be the nation's official agricultural center, considered going completely online amid low attendance and money trouble.

Instead, the center took some drastic moves to shake up its management, including the replacement of its board of directors in early November.

The center typically closes for the winter. When it reopens next spring, officials hope the center will be on the rebound.

"We're going to go after the future," said Frank Van Fleet, the center's newly elected board chairman. "We're going to show the American people what's happening in agriculture today."

One of the first decisions by the new board was to lay off the center's three full-time workers and three part-time workers. Among those losing their jobs was Tim Daugherty, the center's chief executive since 2007.

Van Fleet said the board wasn't happy with Daugherty's performance, especially given his $120,000 annual salary, according to the center's 2008 tax records.

Daugherty said he had tried to boost the center's profile and bring more people in the door but had had little luck. He said he hoped the new leaders had better success.

"It's been a fun, good experience," said Daugherty, a former Farmland Industries Inc. vice president of administration.

The center covers 165 acres just west of the Kansas Speedway. It features displays of 19th century farm equipment and a recreated farm town. It also recognizes American agriculture leaders, going back to George Washington and Squanto — the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian who helped the Pilgrims survive their first New England winter.

A decline in school field trips and the Future Farmers of America moving its annual convention out of Kansas City in the 1990s reduced attendance.

Daugherty said the center gets about 10,000 visitors a year, a third of what it needs, requiring the facility to eat into its savings to cover the $350,000 budget. The center has almost exhausted the $600,000-$700,000 it received in a 2004 land sale and has seen its investments hurt by the recession.

The center, while recognized by the federal government, receives no public tax support.

Center officials acknowledge that one problem is that the facility focuses on the history of agriculture instead of its high-tech present and it will need to become more progressive to attract interest and visitors.

Van Fleet said he wants to approach major agricultural companies for help, possibly seeking naming rights or offering the center as a way for chemical, equipment and other industry leaders to show off their products.

He'd also like greater involvement on the board by local, state and national members of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

"We're going to take this thing national," said Van Fleet, president of the Wyandotte County Farm Bureau.

Information from: The Kansas City Star

Comments

sourpuss 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe the money would stretch farther without such a large salary for the director - especially considering what a fabulous job he did. It gets 10,000 visitors a year. The director makes $120,000. Is he worth $12 per visitor?

RogueThrill 5 years, 8 months ago

It's in Bonner Springs. No one goes there except to see a concert in Sandstone (or whatever it's called now-a-days).

mdrndgtl 5 years, 8 months ago

There is nothing worse than a trip to the Agricultural Hall of Fame...

errita 5 years, 8 months ago

They need to do more to promote this place. I lived near this area for years and saw the sign often and never knew until a few years ago what was even there. I might have wanted to take my family there if I knew.

Steve Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

The former leader came from farmland which went broke in 02 due to poor management decesions. if i remember correctly, he was a part of that sinking ship which effected alot of families that built farmland. i can't feel sorry for the ag hall when they empowered a guy like this, it's most likely to late for salvage.

Steve Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

It sounds like he bled it dry like he and others did to farmland.

somedude20 5 years, 8 months ago

maybe more people would go if they some better looking hoes

average 5 years, 8 months ago

I liked the place the times I went. But, those times were specifically for the bluegrass festival that was held on the grounds for a few years. I don't think I'd go there for the Ag Hall itself.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 8 months ago

it's a nice idea, but frankly, the only people interested in agriculture probably already know most of what is being shown/taught there. the bulk of their visitors are likely schools that need something to do with their kids for a few hours once a year. I get all my ag fix from the county/state fair, History Channel & Modern Marvels, and driving through endless miles of soy, corn & alfalfa.

Now, if they made some cool rides/games, like 'Surviving the Dustbowl', or 'Outrun a John Deere', 'Wrangle a cowgirl day'. I would probably fork out $10 or so for that.

labmonkey 5 years, 8 months ago

"...and the next exibit are the bib overalls John James Johnson ("Triple J" to his friends) wore the day he artificially inseminated a world record (for one person) 732 cattle on his Flint Hills farm on March 22, 1972. This beat the previous record of 698 set by his older brother Joseph James Johnson the previous fall."

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