Museum Captures Multiple Facets of Farm Life

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A horse-drawn tobacco planter dating to the 1940s.

The John K. Parlett Farm-Life Museum is located at Charlotte Hall in St. Mary’s County, Md.

For the past three years, John and Kitty Parlett have held the annual southern Maryland Farm-Life Festival as a fundraiser for “Christmas in April,” a national volunteer organization that works with local communities to rehabilitate houses of low-income residents. The 2000 event raised approximately $15,000.

“The advantage is that the museum is a core facility for a fundraiser,” John said. “The other stuff people bring in is icing on the cake. I’m very happy with it.”

John first started his extensive collection of farm-related items more than 40 years ago and has given it increased attention during the past decade. Consisting of more than 60,000 square feet of indoor historical exhibits, the museum is designed to give visitors an overall picture of life on the farm from the days of ox carts to modern day tractors and machinery.

“It incorporates every kind of equipment for farms,” John said. “We had so many tools, we put together a trades building. The fanner relied on tradesmen to repair his equipment. He had to provide for his family by hunting, fishing, logging, beekeeping. He had a spring house for dairy products, a meat house, a feed mill, a wash house. They had all these buildings behind the house. We have cooking tools and wood stoves and a lot of household stuff. And we added a library and a country store.”

One building contains a varied collection of early farming and transportation equipment, while another holds more than 40 restored tractors from the 1940s and ’50s. During the Farm-Life Festival, a variety of demonstrations featured blacksmithing, threshing, hay baling and similar farm-related activities. An antique tractor and gas engine show and a flea market provided other attractions. Local organizations and civic groups offered a wealth of home cooking.

The 4th annual southern Maryland Farm-Life Festival will be held at the Parlett Farm-Life Museum on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14, 2001. For more information, write John Parlett, P.O. Box 25, Charlotte Hall, Maryland, 20622, or call 301-884-4337. FC

Read about the Farm-Life Museum’s tobacco barn exhibit and tobacco farming: “Technology Had Little Impact on Tobacco Farming.”
Jill Teunis is a freelance writer living in Damascus, Md.
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