Agricultural history and hands-on learning at Ag Progress Days site museum

The Pasto Agricultural Museum houses about 1,300 farm and household artifacts at the Ag Progress Days site in Pennsylvania Furnace.
The Pasto Agricultural Museum houses about 1,300 farm and household artifacts at the Ag Progress Days site in Pennsylvania Furnace. Photo provided

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Road Trips special section.

The Ag Progress Days site may be familiar to some, as it holds the three-day event by the same name each August that attracts thousands of visitors to the largest outdoor agricultural exposition in the state. However, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion to visit this spot in Pennsylvania Furnace.

Visitors can stop by from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursday from mid-March to mid-December to check out the Pasto Agricultural Museum, which houses about 1,300 farm and household artifacts, ranging from more than 70 to 6,000 years old.

The museum, which provides education surrounding the development of agriculture in this region of the early United States, began in 1974, thanks to a large effort by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. With little more than a few display cases, the museum found its first home at the Agricultural Administration Building. The museum obtained its own building and it opened to the public during Ag Progress Days in 1979, with a collection of 150 artifacts.

Though that number has grown to more than 1,000, not all artifacts at the museum are on display at one time. However, the collection in whole covers a large range of agricultural activities and the tools needed to complete them — from beekeeping and butchering, to rural transportation and tobacco farming. The collection is comprised of items that have been donated by curators and museum supporters, with new items being continually added. In fact, the museum has an ongoing wish list so it can continue to add to its displays.

The museum hosts about 10,000 visitors each year, teaching newcomers about how the agricultural process added to the culture of the region, and how technological advances over time have led to the large-scale food production we see today. Visitors learn about a rural life before electricity and engine-powered farm tools, and how life worked before modern conveniences such as refrigeration, stoves and tractors. Hands-on activities are available as well, offering a great learning opportunity for children and families. One of the newest exhibits at the museum includes a life-sized, fiberglass milking cow, on which, yes, visitors can simulate the milking experience.

In addition to its regular Tuesday and Thursday hours, the museum is open 1-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons after Penn State football home games. For groups of more than 10, visits are restricted to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, through Nov. 15. and formal registration is required ahead of time. Admission is free.

If you go

What: Pasto Agricultural Museum

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from mid-March to mid-December

Where: 2710 W. Pine Grove Road, Gate K, Pennsylvania Furnace

Info: agsci.psu.edu/pasto