Pasto Agricultural Museum to make improvements thanks to agritourism grant

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Pasto Agricultural Museum at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently received a grant from Happy Valley Agventures that will support enhancing the museum’s visitor experience.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau and the Chamber of Business & Industry of Center County created the Happy Valley Agventures grant program to support the local agricultural community. The program was made possible with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s “Marketing to Attract Tourists” program.

The goal of the grant is to provide funding for Center County agritourism and ag-related business projects that will strengthen customers’ and visitors’ experiences.

“More and more, people want a greater connection to where their food comes from,” said Fritz Smith, president and chief executive officer of Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. “They want to support local farms and small businesses and want authentic experiences found on the farm. The initiative will continue to showcase Center County’s rich agricultural heritage and offerings to those who call Happy Valley home and those visiting here.”

The Pasto Agricultural Museum, located at the college’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, on state Route 45 west of Pine Grove Mills, is a history and science museum focused on agricultural and rural life through the 1930s.

It is one of several museums that support the college’s mission of teaching, research and outreach; others include the Armsby Calorimeter and the Frost Entomological Museum.

Rita Graef, director at the Pasto Agricultural Museum, said the grant will support improving the museum reception area and foyer and establishing new retail space.

“An inviting entrance, with the promise of ‘taking a bit of the museum home,’ is a vital part of any historic site or museum visit,” she said. “This grant will support enhancing our welcome and creating an opportunity for visitors to extend their experience.”

She added that the museum is a great place to explore the intersection of science and history with collections and exhibits that showcase tools and technology related to agricultural and rural life.

“Our programming connects our agricultural past to the present day, often featuring the researchers and scientists addressing pressing issues for our food system and the environment,” she said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum staff developed intergenerational family programming highlighting research conducted at the 2,200-acre Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center.

“We have built on the fabulous collection that Dr. Jerry Pasto and my predecessor curators have brought together representing agriculture and agricultural practice,” Graef said. “We have amazing implements and artifacts — ranging from simple to very intricate — that we can use as a stepping-off point to discuss the issues affecting agricultural practice and research.”

Graef also noted that she looks forward to welcoming more people to the museum after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted attendance rates. “As a public-facing site, our attendance has dropped these last two years, but we are looking forward to a fall season filled with programming that brings our audiences back, starting with Ag Progress Days in mid-August,” she said.

The Pasto Agricultural Museum is open by appointment through August, with regularly scheduled hours and programming to return this fall. Guided tours are available by appointment. For more information, visit the Pasto Agricultural Museum website.

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