Over the years, Sterling resident Michael Corrado watched the county's small farms "fold up one after another," so the idea of preserving farm implements and tools caught his attention.
Corrado, who lives near the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum in Claude Moore Park, has been on the same 80-acre farm since the 1950s, at one time raising crops on the side of his regular job as a physician. He now is retired, still keeping a few animals on the farm.
"The farms as we know them are disappearing very quickly," said Corrado, a member of the museum's board of directors. "People who had little farms like this, or even bigger, were put out of business by larger farms."
The Heritage Farm Museum, which is under construction, will exhibit artifacts and displays to show how farming in Loudoun County changed from 1720 to present day.
"We cover the whole history of Loudoun County, nine generations of people," said Curtis Poland, vice president of the 25-member board of directors, adding that the exhibits will explain the nature of farming during each generation.
"The life of the farmer is still very much living in the county," said Poland, a retired farmer who lives near Aldie. "Farming has changed a lot in Loudoun County. You farm in a different way and you sell it in a different way ... but it's still farming. ... The farmer is still the same person. It's just the technology that's changed."
THE HERITAGE Farm Museum is housed in a 10,000-square-foot building with reassembled and manufactured farm buildings on one side and 10 rotating displays on the other. The farm buildings are in what is called a town square with a reassembled silo, a manufactured barn and the old Waxpool General Store facing an open area. The store's counters, shelving and windows and some of the exterior siding were restored when it was dismantled from its original location on Waxpool Road near Route 659 and reassembled inside the museum.
Once completed, the general store and post office will have 100 artifacts on display, most of them behind glass with a few manufactured period items out in the open. Dozens of ledger books that have been saved date the store from 1890 to 1942. Also saved are thousands of invoices and mail-out catalogues.
"The thing I'm most impressed with is it's not a static collection of old rustic machines. It actually has a story element to it," said Jeff Browning, a board member who lives west of Purcellville and works as a junior partner with his father for Browning Equipment Inc.
On the other side of the museum is an 180-foot mural depicting a vista of the county from 1720 to modern day. Ten kiosks or displays below the mural narrow Loudoun's history into 30-year time segments to explain the lives of 10 generations of "The Country People." The kiosks together display about 100 artifacts, such as farming equipment and household items, that are donated and on loan. Most of the artifacts are from Loudoun County, including those saved from the Paeonian Work Horse Museum.
"A lot of board member's are collectors themselves," said Allison Weiss, museum manager, adding that the majority of the board members donated items for the exhibits.
THE KIOSKS, which will be rotated every six months, will include graphics on farming and tell the stories of historical people who lived during each time period represented. All but one of the stories are based on real people, with the 10th based on conjecture about a slave named Silvey Mason believed to be a midwife herbalist. The stories show how people adapted to change and how agriculture was affected by that change.
Loudoun's farming started with general farming, the raising of a little of every crop, enough to cover a family's basic needs and to use for bartering. In the 1950s, dairy farming saw a boom in Loudoun, attributed possibly to Westmoreland Davis, who invested in sanitation practices, Weiss said. By the 1970s, Loudoun became the top corn-producing county in the state.
"Everyone had a different theory about what changed it," Weiss said, adding that the advent of the Washington Dulles International Airport in the early 1960s brought commerce to the county. "It completely changed the land value and how land was being taxed, which put farmers out of business."
The types of products produced changed over the years to the vineyard, flower and organic or alternative farming products grown today.
THE CLAUDE MOORE Charitable Foundation provided $25,000 in funding for the museum project, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million once completed. The collection in the museum includes 500 artifacts, 200 of which are on display.
Half of the exhibits are already installed, with work provided by Malone Displays from Atlanta, Ga. The company started working on the installations Nov. 4 and expects to complete work by the end of the month. The graphics for the displays are expected to take another two months and the parking lot still needs to be refinished.
The museum will hold a grand opening, possibly in spring 2003.