Rutherford County Farmers Shows Off Their Tools
Rutherford County Farm Bureau member Joe McDaniel understands how important it is for farmers to keep their tools and equipment in good working order. For example, McDaniel has some fertilizer sprayers he has used for more than 30 years.
“We just keep repairing them when they need it. We do a pretty good job of that. Just like a tractor or a truck, you want it to start. You’ve got to maintain it all,” says McDaniel, Rutherford County Farm Bureau’s past president, who still sits on the board.
Like so many other North Carolina farmers, McDaniel uses a host of different tools to get the job done. And his farm jobs include raising about 135 acres of cotton and the same amount of wheat, as well as 55 acres of corn and another 10 acres of oats.
“You’re always looking for tools that are more productive,” McDaniel says.
Along with using the tools, McDaniel sells a few, too. Besides running his farm, McDaniel owns and operates Colfax Gin & Coal Co., in Ellenboro. While the store mostly caters to lawn and garden enthusiasts and pet owners, Colfax has its share of tools that would be useful on the farm.
Although farm tools nowadays might be more complex, with features like computerized circuitry to help raise crops and livestock, there is another place in Rutherford County that highlights just how important tools are to farmers.
Rutherford County Farm Bureau has been among the many benefactors of the Rutherford County Farm Museum since it opened back in 1994. Overseen by county native Wilbur Burgin – who spent more than 30 years in the U.S. Navy beginning during World War II – the museum contains hundreds of tools and nostalgic farm items that date back hundreds of years.
“Just by word of mouth, people started to bring me stuff,” Burgin says. “People will ask where it all comes from, and I tell them, ‘Widows.’ It doesn’t come here until the husband dies because it might still be in use.”
Housed in a former hardware store in Forest City, the museum takes visitors through the region’s deep agricultural roots, especially in how cotton was raised, harvested and prepared for nearby textile plants.
Those manufacturing operations might have relocated, but Burgin says he does all he can to preserve what it means to be involved in agriculture and how important tools and implements are to farmers.
“I’m not like a typical museum where there might be an item here and an item there. I’d need four times as much space to spread things out like that,” Burgin says.
Schoolchildren are especially welcomed visitors. Burgin recalled a fourth-grade student from Durham who visited and completed a school assignment and then shared the completed work with him recently.
“I was really impressed with what she wrote,” Burgin says. “I’ve got a lot of items that I’m so proud of. It’s entertaining for the kids.” Restored tractors, a hay baler and scores of horse-drawn and hand-held implements and tools currently fill the museum, which is open four days a week Wednesday through Saturday.
“I’m just overflowing,” Burgin says. “I tell the people I’m trying to show them the heritage.”