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30th Annual Rare Breeds Livestock & Poultry Show May 22

    Much of the traditional and iconic images of America are rapidly changing or disappearing. For many Americans, a farm is animals and pastures, barns and a generational family home, crops and fields, families and neighbors bound by common experience of working the land, where nature often calls the shots and work is hard. Yet that image today most likely exists on small farms that strive to produce organic or local foods often started by first time farmers. Economic realities have depopulated farming communities as bigger farms bought out and consolidated the small farms. Economy of scale dictated being able to survive in farming. What took hundreds of years of breeding to produce animals and crops best suited for a local environment, disease resistance, economic shifts, these breeds and varieties are being abandoned as large operations using the latest genetics, chemicals, and drugs seek that one size fits all breed to maximize profits. Most farms today are highly specialized and may only grow one or two crops or specialize in just one type of livestock. The most telling evidence for this is finding todays farm families buying the same foods and consumer items as urban families even though one envisions every farm with a bountiful supply of home grown vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy.

    For any grandchild of a baby boomer there are few "Old McDonald farms" for those grandchildren to see as the baby boomers were the last generation in America that may have had a relative that lived on a "traditional" farm. So though there is a built in market in America for hundreds of different dog or cat breeds, there are very few enthusiasts left that also own the once plentiful breeds of farm animals. Horses are perhaps that only large domestic animal that has a large following but much of that is specifically for the show arena and thus even some horse breeds are declining n number.

     This is what is at the heart of Garfield Farm Museum and its annual Rare Breeds Livestock & Poultry Show to be held on May 22 for 30 years. Although not all the animals of the show are extremely rare, it is the whim of the public that maintains their numbers as popularity can come and go. Thus those that might be stable or beginning to decline in number now could be endangered in a decade or less. The down turn of 2008 put many enthusiasts of rare breeds in economic straits and coupled with an aging population that has a connection to animals, rare breeders are becoming rare themselves.

     For some it may something as simple as a hobby that sustains interest in particular breeds. The hobby of spinning, weaving, and knitting has done as much as anything to encourage different breeds of sheep whose wool may have different characteristics for the particular fiber need at hand. Diane Herman and Connie Gustavson of the Illinois Green Pastures Fiber Co-Op will have different fiber products to sell. Museum volunteer Julia Bizub of Wisconsin plans to demonstrate spinning and her father-in-law sells homemade drop spindles for spinning.

    Some of the finest of wool came from Merino sheep and Garfield Farm Museum's now elderly Merinos will be on display. Loren Marceau, one of the few sheep shearers in the state, will shear the museum's sheep and several others that plan to attend. The still commercially popular Montadale sheep will be represented owned by Jason Davids of Kirkland, IL.

    Sheep required special attention to keep them safe from predators and so dogs have been bred as guardians of such flocks. Debbie Rock plans to bring her Anatolian Shepard dog which is a classic example of a working breed that is now becoming less common. Amy Payne's Canaan dog will be demonstrating agility skills as this breed recently established has its ancient ancestry from the Middle East. Payne brings a trailer full of animals and uses the entire 1849 horse barn to display her Rhinelander, Silver Fox, Checkered Giant, American Tan, French Angora, English Lop, Mini Rex and  Holland Lop rabbits, her Jacob and Barbados sheep, Nubian goat, American Saddlebred horse, her Blue Slate, Black Spanish, and Chocolate turkeys, Sebastopol geese, and Serama chickens.

    Horses EveryOne plans to demonstrate how to gain the trust of horses. Retired from carriage driving a 25 year old Percheron mare will be the feature of this demonstration. Percherons were historically one of the most prominent horses in the region as Mark Dunham of Wayne, IL imported and bred thousands of these important French draft horses in the late 1800s. This is only the second time a full blooded Percheron will be at the show. Horses EveryOne seeks to bring Post-Industrial Age, modern technology people back in touch with horses, experiencing their ancient lessons and joys. Horses built this country: they hauled materials to build buildings, cleared forests for farmlands. Horses provided a major mode of transportation: they carried riders, pulled wagons, carriages and trolley cars. Horses were warrior vehicles in the Middle Ages and in WW I and WW II.

   Other breeds of equines that plan to attend include Morgan horses, Hackney pony, and Colonial Spanish horses. Tom Norush will bring his Colonial Spanish horses that is a group of closely related breeds that descend from horses brought by Spanish explorers and colonists to the Americas beginning in the 1500s. Hardenberg Feathered Horse Farm of Gilson, IL plans to bring a Fell Pony, one of five native pony breeds of England. The Fell pony was originally used as a packhorse, carrying lead, slate, copper and iron ore in northern England.

    The Winifred Hoffman family plan to bring a Milking Shorthorn and Dutch belted dairy calves. Dutch belted dairy cattle have a solid white belt of coloration as their fore and hind sections are solid black.  The Hoffmans have been working to preserve these breeds for two generations. Another long time breeder, Clyde Grover plans to attend as he has only missed one of the shows over 29 years. His favorite is the Red Wattle Hog, a very lean type of pork that almost became extinct in the 1960s. He also plans to bring a Katahdin sheep, a hair sheep breed that sheds its wool and does not need to be sheared.

    A line of chickens that was developed from Garfield Farm Museum's rare Black Java chickens, the Auburn Java will be the center of Lyle Behl's display. Because Garfield Farm Museum's small flock of Black Javas were heavily interbred, some brown instead of black and yellow chicks occasionally hatched out when incubated at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Tim Christakos, head of the MSI incubation exhibit took an interest in the coloration. Lyle Behl has actively bred for this type and now after several years has a line of Auburn Javas. He also plans to bring his Silver Java and Icelandic chickens. Additional poultry breeds will include White Javas and Gold Laced Wyandottes. Other fowl will include American Buff and Pilgrim Geese , Welsh Harlequin and Muscovy Ducks, and Narragansett turkeys.

     Rare in just terms of age alone, the museum's ox duo, Jesse (21 years ), and Duke (20 years) are of the Milking Devon cattle breed. First brought to North America in the 1620s, this breed was good for milk, hides, tallow, and meat, and made the fleetest of foot for oxen. After two decades, the duo is not as ?fleet? and are geriatrics on the equivalent of baby food diet. As animals age they suffer tooth wear and so now a diet of alfalfa pellets and calf sweet feed got them through another winter. Historically, oxen would have been slaughtered years before they were no longer as productive as draft animals but this duo is enjoying retirement only standing in their yoke for demonstration purposes. Except for pets, few of people ever witness the aging process in livestock. Not all the museum's animals are old as a pair of recently weaned Berkshire piglets will be on hand and there will be plenty of Black Java chicks recently hatched by area schools and the Museum of Science and Industry for sale.

     Great concern over the last several years has put the domesticated (European) honey bee in a tenuous position. Colony collapse that has yet to be understood has taken a toll on this pollinator needed for so many fruit and vegetable crops. Glen Mize of Heritage Prairie Farm will be on hand with honey for sale and demonstration of beekeeping.     In addition to the animal exhibits, tours of the 1846 brick tavern will be given and there will be interpretation of the restoration status of the museum's oldest building, the 1842 hay and grain barn. The barn has been restored and as soon as weather co-operates grading and landscaping around the building will be undertaken. Copies of the new children's chapter book "Angie of Garfield Farm" will be available as the author Ann Brack Johnson helps with the tours of Angie Garfield's childhood home.     Inglenook Pantry will have refreshments available so a full afternoon can be leisurely spent down on the farm. There is a $6 donation for adults and $3 for children under 13 years of age. A portion of the proceeds after expenses goes towards the Livestock Conservancy, a national group working to preserve heritage breeds.

   Garfield Farm & Tavern Museum is a former historically intact 375 acre Illinois prairie farmstead and teamster inn that is being restored as an n 1840s working farm museum. Founded in 1977, it has achieved much more that was ever dreamed of as authentic restoration of its buildings continue. Supported by individual donors and businesses, over $10 million has been invested in its preservation. The museum is located five miles west of Geneva, IL off IL Highway Rt. 38 on Garfield Road in Campton Hills, IL. For further information call 630 584-8485 or e-mail