New Art Exhibits Interpret Agriculture’s Artifacts Tractors Crops & Hops

Woodland, CA April 1, 2016- The California Ag Museum ushered in longer hours of operation for the season on March 19th for Family Day.  While engine clubs and Monster Tractors roared in the East Wing, the West Wing opened two new art exhibits.  The art season at the Museum begins with photographs of “Central Valley through the Seasons” by Beth Young which are on display from March 19th, through May 19th.  By day, Young is a licensed architect specializing in designing healthcare facilities.  As a photographer she seeks out calming settings in nature.

Paula Amerine also displays “The Art of Real Food” from March 19th to May 19th.  Her paintings are influenced from a long-time agriculture tradition of branding fruit and vegetable lug boxes.   You’ll also find her work in the new seasonal cookbook by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny currently available in the California Agriculture Museum gift shop.

““We’re interpreting the Museum collection in new ways at the California Agriculture Museum,” says Rusty Lucchesi, ”art is one of many new features you’ll see when you visit the newly arranged collection at the Museum.” The Museum is grateful to the Sparrow Gallery for curating the show and enhancing the collection with another view of agriculture. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 10am to 4pm at 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland, CA. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors.

Artist Jeff Myers interpretation of tractors opens on June 16th for our annual fundraising event Tractors & Brews as a salute to our roots.  Tickets go on sale at www.CaliforniaAgMuseum.org. The evening features a salute to agriculture’s myth makers with one of the most anticipated food and drink events of the season.

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Agriculture after the Gold Rush – Exhibit Sneak Preview November 13, 2015 at 5:30pm

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Woodland California, Agriculture after the Gold Rush, is a new exhibit at the California Agriculture Museum that features a replica of the town of Bodie, California which is said to be haunted.  The exhibit was developed by Fashion Stables and opens for a sneak preview on Friday the 13th, November 2015 with spirits and a shoot out by the Blue Canyon Gang from 5:30pm – 7pm.  Admission is $15 for adults and it is free to Museum members.

Local folklore indicates that Bodie is cursed. oct2015-2
It is believed that individual spirits of the
community come together as one to protect
what is left of the town. If someone attempts
to remove any aspect of this community,
they are doomed to misfortune until they
return that which they have taken. The
original town, just like the setting at the
California Agriculture Museum, has a history
of haunting and eerie sounds that come out
of nowhere.

Bodie began as a mining camp following the discovery of gold in that region in 1859.  It was established by a number of miners including W.S. Bodey who perished in a blizzard (the spelling of the town’s name was adjusted later in history).  This mining town was California’s second or third largest city by 1880 with a population of between 5000-7000 people and about 2,000 buildings.oct2015-13

Among those buildings are a general store, bank, Miner’s Union Hall, and a funeral parlor.  The local mines produced gold valued at nearly $34,000,000.  The town also supported the Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County first published in October 10, 1877.

Located at an altitude of 8,400 feet and exposed on a flat plateau, Bodie inhabitants transported lumber, crops, and other agricultural products to survive in very hot and cold climates.

Other pioneers arrived in California who didn’t spend much time digging for gold.  Instead they grew crops and raised herds.  Some failed.  Other’s succeeded.  When the weather, water, livestock, and machinery cooperated, they turned a good profit.  While mining was the cornerstone of the economy, farmers, ranchers and agriculture related businesses were also prospering.

Before the Gold Rush: Agriculture

oct2015-3 Long before the Gold Rush, California’s population was made up of Native American cultures.  By the mid-1700’s the population experienced colonization from Spain (1769) and then Mexico (1823).  The territory was isolated and sparsely populated.  Early ranching families referred to themselves as Californios and  they exported agricultural products around the world.

These early years developed many of California’s land laws and customs.  By the 1830’s Californios had assimilated elements of culture and law from the missions, pueblos, and rancheros.  The constantly changing cultural values created opportunity to develop extensive ranching along the California coast and in the Sacramento Valley that would eventually lend itself to farming.

California Gold: Agriculture

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It was Sam Brannan, a storekeeper from Sutter Creek, who traveled through San Francisco holding a bottle filled with gold dust shouting: “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” Those words began the greatest and most diverse immigration in California’s history!

Because of the massive immigration that had settled in California during the Gold Rush, there was a need for food production.  The demand for food and other agricultural commodities spurred California’s agricultural business development and competed with mining as the number one economic driver.

There were challenges for farmer’s and ranchers to overcome.  Part of the California agriculture story was overcoming the lack of labor pools, environmental challenges, and a lack of infrastructure that modern food producers expect today such as irrigation, electricity, transport, and equipment designed to function in California’s varied terrain and climate.  The California terrain and isolation encouraged invention.  By the 1913’s most every farm in California owned a tractor, and not coincidentally this is also the time when prosperity came to rural areas of our State. 

Although raising herds of cattle, cultivating indigenous plants, and planting small orchards and grape vines were established years before the California Gold Rush, the continued demand for wheat after the Gold Rush drove California crop production.  California had the acreage to cultivate large areas of fertile land.  In 1870 a bushel of wheat could be sold for $1.82 helping farmers to pay for their production investment.

As farming conditions fluctuated from good to bad, and the consumer’s demand for food also changed, farmers in California learned to diversify their crops and grow other commodities.  It wasn’t unusual to hear about early settlers who lost everything several times over before they succeeded.  Farming like the Gold Rush was equivalent to gambling.  The hearty immigrants that arrived in California from Europe, Asian, Australia, and South America each took calculated challenges and made personal sacrifices to succeed. Each culture added to the science and production of crops in a cooperative atmosphere geared toward survival.

When it came to the soil, local farmers and ranchers sustained their businesses better than the 49ers. After the frantic first years of the California Gold Rush, most gold miners, with more dreams than common sense, dug, then moved on eager for the next gold strike.

Generations of families that followed the gold rush held the community together with their agricultural cooperatives and fraternal organizations.  Names like Heidrick, Veerkamp, Davis, Sheldon, Ghirardeli, Murietta, Snyder, Clark, Knight, Nakagtagi, Stone, Wilkinson and Alvardo show up in edifices like grave yards, old ranch houses, granaries, and barns. Family names like Best, Holt, Harris, and Case were etched into machinery, now considered artifacts that dot our agricultural landscapes.

Agriculture Today

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Drive a few miles out of most any township in California and you’ll see open fields, beautiful views, row crops, wheat, orchards, vineyards and cattle. Most of these areas were founded in the mid 1850s.

Even the foundation for early irrigation dates back to the Gold Rush from the American River which winds through our corridors bringing water to pastures, orchards and gardens in many areas of the valleys that are currently controlled by agencies.

Early-day farmers supplied basic needs, such as wool, dairy products, beef, fruit, nuts, hay, beans, apples, pears and various grains, especially barley. One of the most profitable crops was wine which became established in the pre gold rush era.oct2015-9

Since those early days, agriculture began and continues as one of the main economic drivers of California. Although large farming operations
dominate the economic climate, the California consumer’s demand for the unusual, sophisticated or just plain delicious food became a part of the agricultural landscape and continues to spur the development and expansion of agri-businesses, agri-tourism and California restaurant cuisine
that is renowned for being farm fresh.

Agriculture’s Early History

1850s               Farming cooperatives and clubs are established

1854                Self-governing windmill perfected

1856                Two-horse straddle-row cultivator patented

1858                Mason jars invented

1850’s              Commercial corn and wheat

1858                Grimm alfalfa introducedoct2015-10


Early Transportation

1840                Railroad track constructed

1845-57           Plank road movement

1850’s              Major rail trunk lines cross Appalachian Mountains

Steam and clipper ships improve overseas transportation

Ag Mechanization

1600’s              Farmers near water transportation grow cash crops for trade.

1797                First cast-iron plow by Charles Newbold

1830                Walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, flail

1831                Cyrus H. McCormick built the first practical grain harvesting machine

1834                McCormick reaper patented

1837                John Deere manufacture steel plows, practical threshing machine is patented

1840                Factory-made agricultural machinery encourages commercial farming

1841                Practical grain drill patented

1849                Jacob J. and Henry F. Mann patented a reaper

1850                Homer Atkins develops a self raking reaper

1858                C. W. and W. W. Marsh  invent a grain harvester

Thank You!

We are grateful for the contributions of Fashion Stables, the Blue Canyon Gang, and our Tuesday Crew for developing this backdrop that dramatizes the agricultural artifacts, transportation and machinery of the era during and following the Gold Rush in California. A special acknowledgement is deserved for Bettina Chandler for donating and supporting the restoration of an early John Deere wagon that dates back to the 1800s and to Lorry Dunning for stewarding the donation.  Many thanks to Cliff Simes who put hours and years into restoring the wagon.

We also want to acknowledge the materials and scholarship that contributed to elements of this exhibit:

  • Haunted Places to Go, Real Haunted Ghost Towns in the United States: Bodie, California
  • Bodie Foundation
  • National Agriculture In the Classroom
  • California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
  • The Evolution of California Agriculture, 1850-200: Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode
  • “After the Gold Rush” by Betty Sederquist
  • Decline of the Californios, by Leonard Pitt
  • Making Tracks, by Ed and Sue Claessen
  • Gold Rush, The American Experience, a PBS production
  • Walnut History and Cultivation by California Walnuts
  • A Stylized History of California Agriculture from 1796 to 2000
  • After the Gold Rush, by David Vaught

The Land Series Oil Paintings on Display Starting June 9th at the Ag Museum, Purchase Gala Tickets Now!

Tractor Amalgam,  60" x 72"  Oil, Acrylic, Digital C-Print and Graphite  2015

Tractor Amalgam, 60″ x 72″ Oil, Acrylic, Digital C-Print and Graphite 2015

The California Agriculture Museum will feature the solo artist oil painting exhibition, “The Land Series,” by Sacramento artist, Jeff Myers, beginning with their wine and dine reception on Tuesday, June 9th from 5:30-8:30 PM.

In a notable advancement of his style, Myers will be debuting a large piece called “Tractor Amalgam” that combines his “Body Environment Series” photography with oil painting.

In this painted collage the central motif is the Tractor.  However, upon closer viewing, you will see many embedded human figures supporting the Tractor form.  Myers states, “I am interested in human consciousness’ verses what might be called ‘machine consciousness’ and how they interrelate.  In this piece I want to create a Tractor that feels more organically alive while pointing to future questions of artificial intelligence.”

The exhibit will be on display until August 4th at 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland, CA

Purchase your tickets to the museum event at http://mkt.com/heidrick-ag-history-museum-and-events-center/june-th-member-reception-tickets

Press Release Wine, Dine & Art Reception at the California Ag Museum

June 9 folding card          Woodland, CA May 30, 2015-  Wine and Dine at the California Agriculture Museum Tuesday, June 9th, in celebration of their name change and new exhibits. Stroll through the newly rearranged tractor collection, while enjoying a variety of local beers, wine, food and even moonshine tastings, 5:30-8:30 at 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland.

The California Agriculture Museum is hosting a public reception to commemorate their evolution into a California landmark museum, formerly the Heidrick Ag History Center. The facility is still home to the Heidrick tractor collection, but has added exhibits such as a tribute to moonshine, which displays a historic column still as well as a pot still that would have been found hidden in a corn field during prohibition. Other new additions include a kid’s corner with ride on tractors, a large corn bath with tractor toys, tomato facts and climb-on simulators.

Moonshine Exhibit            “We are proud of the hard work that has been put into this evolving museum by board members, staff, and volunteers,” said Executive Director Lorili Ostman, “And of course we could not continue to grow with the generosity of our museum donors.”

“This is a great opportunity to become a museum member in order to support one of California’s richest historical landmarks in the making, and help us cultivate new exhibits,” Ostman added.

Enjoy local wines from Berryessa Gap, Turkovich, Lynch Wines, local beers from Black Dragon, Ruhstaller, as well as, food from Ludy’s, Fat’s, Yolo Fliers Club, Common Grounds, Sugar Gallery, Cracchiolo’s Market, Deli, & CateringBlackPine Catering and Events and more. Plus, grab a commemorative shot glass for $5 and receive a Moonshine variety tasting!

Also on special display will be a body of oil paintings by Sacramento artist Jeff Myers celebrating agriculture machinery.

The event will take place, Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 5:30PM in the museum at 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland. Admission is $10 for members, $15 for non-members, and complimentary for $1000+ annual donors.

We are officially the California Agriculture Museum!

2015 Museum Logo 6x6Woodland, CA– The Heidrick Ag History Center, has been rebranded as the California Agriculture Museum, in order to better reflect its broad cultural relevance. Giving substantial credit to its founder, Northern California farmer Fred C. Heidrick Sr., the non-profit museum is home to the nation’s most rare collection of California tractors and farm equipment.

The California Ag Museum is nestled in Yolo County which continues to be of the most agriculturally dominant counties in the state, producing nearly 35 percent of the world’s processing tomatoes.

This museum exhibits the evolution of California farming since the late 1800’s, with more than 100 tractors and another 100 pieces of agricultural artifacts on display.

“We have everything from giant steam driven tractors, to the belt driven and diesel burning metal wheel tractors,” Executive Director Ostman explained, “Following the end of the gold rush era, grain production exploded out here in the West, and pioneer farmers exemplified the true definition of innovation.”

Tractor technology is recognizably the most important aspect of modern farming in the United States; its transformation has enabled farmers to produce more effectively and efficiently to feed the ever growing population.

By the end of the 1800’s California became the leader in agriculture and mechanization;  it also lead the way in environmental standards. Paired with the diverse landscape, unique weather and healthy soil, it continues to be the ideal test area for tractor manufacturers.  If they can meet the criteria in California, most times they have exceeded demands in the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. Large equipment manufacturers have embraced ideas born on California’s farms, and put the ideas into mass production for worldwide specialized equipment.

Although Ostman explains that the Heidrick name is known as an agricultural giant among farming and ranching communities, the founding family and board of directors recognize that  it lacks distinction outside of those circles. How to maintain that local charm while inviting travelers to stop by to learn the California agriculture story has been a major topic of debate for several years.

The founder’s grandson, Rusty Luchessi, is very active in the museum’s affairs as board president, and expressed his support and enthusiasm for the rebranding efforts.

“By changing the name of the museum, we are hoping to emphasize that the collection is a celebration of California’s strong agricultural heritage,” he explained, “It encompasses the diversity of California farms and farming, and spotlights the ingenuity, camaraderie, and general ‘don’t tell me I can’t’ attitude of California farmers. This collection tells that story well.”

“With the rebranding, we can market to a wider demographic, people will have a better understanding of what they will find here,” Ostman added. “The Fred C. Heidrick collection is still the focal point of the museum, but we want our name to better explain what that is.”

“We hear our guests remark that they never imagined the museum was so visually and historically exciting,” she continued, “We have high hopes that that name change will strengthen the museum’s visibility as the landmark it is for California.”

The museum team has partnered with Ag in the Classroom, a federal agriculture educational program that fits in with California common core curriculum.

“We are in the middle of a farm-to-fork healthy eating revolution,” Ostman said, “What better way to teach children and neighbors about the meaning of whole foods than to give them an experience that rationalizes the culture of agriculture. To provide understanding of their roots, and why agriculture is a major player in California’s economic position.”

The museum may be named for California, however, they rely completely on funding from donations, visits and revenue from their onsite event center.

For the last 20 years, the Heidrick Ag History Museum and Event Center has been one of the areas premiere event venues, inviting clients to host their events in one of four unique rental spaces. The facility has been be rented for weddings, parties, large corporate events both ag related and not, and has been home to annual expositions, car shows and collector events.

As the California Ag Museum moves forward, the non-profit facility will continue to be available for rent to comfortably accommodate events, in their large banquet hall, unique agricultural equipment museum, beautifully manicured garden courtyard, and their newly unveiled 45,000 square foot grand exposition facility called the East Wing.

For a special treat, clients have the option of creating a grand entry for their dignitaries by parading them through an edifice adorn by treasures of California’s rich artifacts seated in a Model A, a 1920’s bus, or maybe even a 1925 fire engine.

These venues are available for gatherings small to large — trade shows, large-scale conferences, personal special events, and more — with customizable accommodations to make every booking completely unique.

For more information about the museum, please visit www.CaliforniaAgMuseum.org

Growing Up with Grandpa

Fred Heidrick 1

By Laura Wieking 
Granddaughter of Fred Heidrick Sr.

Growing up, I didn’t really know this collection was anything other than our extended playground. Grandpa never told us to get off the machines, or to stay out of the barns where the rare, one-of-a-kind and massive machines rested. We climbed all over, breathing in the greasy paint smell of the barns and shop as if it were a fine floral bouquet. I knew that people came from all over to see my grandparents and the collection, but I thought it was only because they were like, the coolest grandparents ever. The tractors were just gravy.

I learned to drive on a 1922 flatbed Model T Ford truck when I was 11. I could also drive a tractor that had wheels. But driving a track tractor was beyond my comprehension. It still is. I can’t figure it out. From my viewpoint you steer the things with what looks like a stick and some pedals, probably some spit too. And when it turns, or maybe pivot is the right word, it sounds like it’s going to fall apart amidst the squeals, shudders and rusty pings.

All the grandsons in the family had a Caterpillar 10 tractor. I remember the row of 10s, each with a white nameplate with red lettering for the cousin or brother to whom it belonged. I didn’t want a Caterpillar, but I do remember, distinctly, asking Grandpa if instead of a Caterpillar, could I please have a Butterfly?

In my childish perception of the restoration process, I thought of Grandpa’s shop as some kind of magic assembly line. A tractor or old car went in one end, some cartoony assembly line music played, and out came out the final product, completely transformed. Never mind the hundreds of hours spent restoring these mammoth machines to working and show condition.

So naturally, I convinced myself that he should be able to put an old gray caterpillar into the barn, flip a switch, and voila – out comes a Butterfly tractor all pretty with swirly colors all over. And with easy to use steering controls of course.

I don’t remember what Grandpa’s response was. I really wish I did. I really really wish I did. I have a feeling he probably put his hands on his hips, tilted his hat back, paused, and simply offered to build something else for me in his shop to distract me from my wild notions of a purple tractor. I’m pretty sure a smile was involved too.