A Visit to the Georgia Agrirama
Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village
Known as the Georgia Agrirama for years, the name has been changed to the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. From what I've gathered, the facility is now under the management of ABAC, a local junior college. Whatever you call it, it's a great place to spend a few hours, and it offers something for every age group. The Georgia Agrirama provides an enjoyable way to learn about farming practices and Southern culture of the late 1900s. Go for a morning or an afternon, or spend an entire day. This is a fun, fascinating place to visit any time of year, especially when special events are taking place. If you make trips to Florida down Interstate 75, you pass right by this place. Why not stop and explore on your next trip to the Sunshine State via the Peach State?
The Georgia Agrirama is a living museum dedicated to life in a small farming community of the late 19th century. It’s located just off Interstate 75, in Tifton, so you’ve probably passed right by it on your way to Florida. My house is just a couple of blocks away from the Agrirama, so I’ve visited it many times. The 95-acre facility has 35 permanent structures, plots for crops, a lake, and enclosures for farm animals. Workers are dressed in period costume and readily interact with visitors.
Stepping through the gate at the Agrirama gives visitors a real "feel" for what life must have been like at the turn of the century. It's like being trasported back in time - a kaleidescope of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. The experience is much better than just reading about it in the dry words of some history book.
Touring the Agrirama is a great way to spend a few hours, for both kids and adults. There’s plenty to do and see, and visitors will learn a lot in the process. I think you'll be amazed at the authenticity in even the smallest details. The planners searched all over the state for authentic barns, houses, and other structures. Then they were disassembled, moved, and re-assembled on their present sites. The new buildings that were constructed have strictly adhered to buidling methods that were used in the 19th century.
The grounds includes a nice lake for fishing. Visitors have the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, bream, and catfish. You’ll need a current GA fishing license to fish. Fishing is included in the admission fee.
See antique bottles, jars, and display cabinets typical of an 1890’s pharmacy. Enjoy a Coca-cola from the vintage fountain, or try one of the shakes, sundaes, floats, or hand-dipped ice creams.
This is one of my favorite parts of the Agrirama! This store has all kinds of neat stuff for sale, including old-fashioned candies, jams and jellies, books, vintage replica toys, quilts, and meal and grits produced on the grounds. I especially enjoy Christmas shopping here!
Wiregrass Feed & Seed
This store is typical of a turn-of-the-century feed store, with storage bins, tools, and antique farm equipment.
The Agrirama has the only steam-powered train in regular operation in the state of Georgia, and it’s a big hit with kids! The tracks encircle the grounds of the facility, and the train has open-air cars for passengers. Tickets to ride the train are $2.
Historic Tift House
This upper class Victorian home was built in 1887 and was the residence of Henry Harding Tift. The house is furnished with antiques and is adorned with period paintings.
This is an interesting place that allows visitors to see the process that turns trees into boards. The saw mill uses an 1890 DeLoach circular saw capable of producing 10,000 board feet a day.
The Agrirama’s grist mill was built in 1879 and is powered by water. See how corn is ground into cornmeal here. The meal produced is available for purchase in the Country Store.
The print shop at the Agrirama uses an 1888 Whitlock Flatbed Press. Visitors get to see how type is set, and you can have your own vintage flyers and posters printed. We’ve had several “wanted” posters printed here.
At the smithy’s shop, you can see how metal is forged into horseshoes, plowshares, hooks, and other useful objects.
Turpentining was once an important industry in the South. The gum was collected from pine trees and then turned into turpentine and rosin. You’ll see how it was done here.
Barrels were needed to hold the rosin from the turpentine still, and they were made by a cooper. A constant supply of barrels was needed because each barrel was used only once. See the cooper’s furnace, winch, and tools used by coopers.
These shops were usually referred to as “variety shops.” In this one, you can see antique woodworking machinery, including planers, lathes, band saws, table saws, jointers, and mortisers.
This church was built in 1882 and features original pews, railings, pulpit, walls, and hand-poured glass. The walls and pews were all planed by hand.
This one-room schoolhouse features antique desks, recitation benches, and a pot-bellied stove for heat in the colder months.
The community doctor’s office at the Agrirama appears much as it would in the nineteenth century. It contains antique furniture, hand-carved crutches and walking sticks, and medical implements of the time.
This has always been a favorite with my kids and grandkids! The progressive farmstead area has mules, goats, sheep, pigs, cows, and chickens.
Sit down in this cozy café and enjoy a hamburger, hotdog, sandwich, or a full meal. A hot meal with a meat, two vegetables, and a roll is under $5. You can also purchase a whole homemade sour cream pound cake to take home for just $8.50. And believe me, these cakes are awesome!
Museum of Agriculture
This 28,000-square-foot building houses some fascinating antique machinery and implements. Included are wagons, carts, road graders, and other tools used during the period. The horse-drawn implements in the museum are paired with life-size replicas of horses, which my granddaughter finds fascinating!
There’s lots more to see at this living history museum, too – a Masonic Lodge, a cotton gin, a peanut museum, cabins, farm homes, crop plots, a welcome center, a commissary, and the Eisenhower Monument. There’s also the Opry Shelter, complete with picnic tables, where live performances and speeches are held.
Throughout the year, the Agrirama hosts some great festivals. In the spring is the Folklife Festival and Fiddlers’ Jamboree, with live demonstrations of broom making, quilt making, spinning, and wool dying. There are also lots of games for kids and adults, along with artisans and arts and crafts. Fiddlers from all over perform at the Opry Shelter.
For an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration, check out the Agrirama’s Independence Day event. This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, July 3, 2010. There’ll be all kinds of activities for kids and adults, including traditional games and contests, exhibits, live entertainment, and historic demonstrations.
For Halloween, the Agrirama opens its gates for free. This is a safe, fun place to take the kids to enjoy an old-fashioned Halloween, with games, hay rides, train rides, a pumpkin walk, and a costume contest. This year’s Halloween Carnival will be held on October 30th, 2010, from 5:30 – 9 pm.
The Victorian Christmas and cane-grinding party is my favorite of all the celebrations at the Agrirama. Everything is decked out in Victorian Christmas decorations, and there are lots of traditional Victorian desserts. There are also hay rides, concession stands, syrup cooking, live demonstrations, and an auction for Christmas trees and wreaths. Santa will be there, too. With all the vendors and their wares, this is a great time to do some Christmas shopping for unique gifts. This year’s Christmas party will be held on Saturday, December 11, 2010.
The Agrirama offers several programs for students and teachers. Several years ago, I took one of my classes there. The students spent the day much as someone their age would have done in the 19th century. They dressed in authentic costume and did chores like washing dishes, gathering eggs, cooking, plowing, hauling water, caring for livestock, planting, and sewing. The kids had a ball and learned a lot in the process!
Agrirama RV Park
The Agrirama has 42 RV sites with sewage, water, and electricity. The sites are on level ground, and the fee is $20 per night. Security and wifi are also provided.
Come for a visit!
Next time you’re motoring down I-75 on your way to Disney World or some Florida beach, take the time to stop at the Agrirama for a couple of hours. It’s a truly unique experience. Be sure to throw me a wave when you’re in my neck of the woods!
If you'd like more information about the Georgia Agrirama, visit their website.