LEBANON COUNTY FARMS

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While Cooperstown geared up for the induction, I headed to Pennsylvania. Sally McMurry, a prof at Penn State has been working on a state-wide project funded by PennDOT to document farms. Her goal is to develop a context to evaluate farmsteads for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The idea is that some farms may be eligible not for their architecture (fancy buildings or technological wonders) but because they exemplify an agricultural theme. One of the most tangible benefits of listing is that incoming producing property is then eligible for a tax credit for work done to the buildings according to the Sec. of the Interior’s standards. Ideally, farmers could get money for keeping and using historic buildings! I worked for five days with Sally and Diane Wenger in Lebanon County, PA. I met one very mean bull, two bats, a snake, and lots of more friendly farm animals; got zapped on a electric fence trying to document a particularly large 18th c. barn (turns out the tape measure I have using conducted electricity); and saw more corn cribs, manure lagoons, and machine sheds than I had imagined possible in such a short period to time. I also met some great farmers who were willing to talk with three women who arrived with no notice and wanted to poke around the barns, farmhouse, and fields!

Cindy filling out the form

Cindy filling out the form

Each farm was recorded in three ways:  through photographs, a site plan, and a lengthy form that required a full description and dating of every building and landscape feature on the property.  I took a few pictures and drew one site plan, but most of the time I filled out the form (wearing my CGP hat, you’ll note).  Hopefully when Sally gets back to Happy Valley to enter everything in the database, which will eventually go on-line, she’ll be able to follow my notes!

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