BY JOSH THALL
Capital News Service
LANSING – Efforts to bring a new agricultural museum to the Blissfield area are now focused on the next step in the museum process — fundraising.
Pete Durbin, chair of Tri-County Historical Museum, Inc., which owns the farm toy collection that is central to the museum’s conception, said the process began late last year with the hiring of Dwyer Philanthropy from Adrian to run the campaign.
According to Frank Baker, a board member of the Tri-County Historical Museum, formal fundraising has not begun, but intensive planning is underway to raise the $7 million to $8 million the museum is expected to cost.
The idea for a museum of this size and nature came about after the owner of 6,000 farm toys and more than 360 pedal tractors offered to donate the collection anonymously to a local historical society of which Durbin was a member.
Durbin said the historical society turned down the offer because it was a larger project than they wished to be involved in. So the historical society and the Tri-County Historical Museum met, and agreed that the Museum Board should incorporate, and secure the toy collection.
“The man and his wife were looking for a place that it would be taken care of,” Durbin said. “We seemed to be acceptable to them, and we were given the toys, and the pedal tractors.”
Durbin said the Tri-County Historical Museum Inc. received the toys in fall 2012 and quickly realized it was dealing with a major gift.
The board of directors began thinking of ways to use the donation to further the history of farming, and also use it as an educational tool to tell the story of agriculture in the Midwest and show how it will probably change over the next 50 years.
Blissfield Village won the bid to host the farming museum over a few other towns, all in Lenawee County.
Baker said a large part of the decision to put the museum in Blissfield was its location and its agricultural roots.
“Blissfield is at a crossroad of a long history of agriculture, and is situated in some of the best farmland in the world,” Baker said. “There are numerous agricultural businesses clustered around there, supporting major agriculture in the area.”
Baker said the area is strategically located near a large portion of the country’s population, making it easy to get to. The board has recently secured land in Blissfield for the museum, at the former site of the Home Canning Co.
Blissfield village administrator James Wonacott said the museum could have a positive impact on the Blissfield area.
“The kind of facility, with the stature of the architecture that they have, we’re guessing will be at a minimum, a regional draw, if not a national draw,” Wonacott said. “They are talking about partnerships with educational institutions, and all kinds of things that will have a positive impact on the community.”
Wonacott said there is also a chance for an increase in various types of spin-off business, such as hotels and restaurants.