NE Iowa Farm Antique Association calls for volunteers

The Northeast Iowa Farm Antique Association is calling for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks this summer and fall, from money collection and monthly event supervision to overseeing machinery at Plagman Barn Show Days. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

The Northeast Iowa Farm Antique Association is calling for volunteers for the 2014 season. President Larry Moser hopes to increase interest in membership this year, thereby increasing the volunteer base to make activities at Plagman Barn sustainable. With roughly 50 current members, organizers worry they’ll have to eliminate some of the activities from September’s Show Days. 

The Association is dedicated to the historical preservation and the education of area youth by demonstrating the area's early farm and home practices and techniques. Volunteers are needed to help with general upkeep and events all season long, and there’s a need for a variety of skill sets. “I think a lot of people don’t volunteer out there because they think it’s driving tractor, and it’s not,” said Bill Niehaus, the organization’s secretary. Volunteers collect money, work in the kitchen, mow grass, paint, perform building maintenance, and help out at monthly events like barn dances and chicken dinners. 

Of the estimated 50 current members, a small core group volunteers on a regular basis. The rest help out at Plagman Barn Show Days, overseeing steam powered engines, single cylinder engines, and horse drawn equipment. Volunteers run machinery for threshing oats, chopping silage, baling straw, cutting wood from logs, and a working grist mill. Help is needed to make interactives like a blacksmith shop, butter churning, a horse pull, and an antique
tractor pull possible.

Getting involved is easy. “All you’ve got to do is put your hand up and say you want to be a member,” Niehaus said. The group is particularly enthusiastic about incorporating area youth, and they’ve created positions specifically for student volunteers. Guides ride in wagons and explain displays to school children, and those inclined can paint faces or run fish pond games. 

The Northeast Iowa Farm Antique Association has lately received financial support from individuals and organizations to help ensure their activities at Plagman Barn will continue. A grant from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Commission will finance the rehabilitation of six leaky cupalos on the barn roof, a project that is scheduled to begin this spring. 

Mel and Donna Christensen, who in the past donated materials to build the new country store, gave $10,000 to an endowment fund for The Northeast Iowa Farm Antique Association, provided a dollar for dollar match was raised. Fred Phelps, of Colesburg, stepped up to the plate and donated the match himself. To date, there is $23,000 in the fund. The organization will begin drawing interest on the endowment fund next year. 

The Association’s next meeting is Sunday, May 4, at 1:00 p.m. at Plagman Barn. Dues are just $10 per year. Niehaus encourages, “If you’re interested, just show up out at the barn, sit in on the meeting, and see what we’re all about.” 

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