Agricultural Sciences

Pasto Agricultural Museum open house focuses on haymaking

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The next in a series of fall open houses at Penn State's Pasto Agricultural Museum will focus on the history of haymaking.
The event is scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 7.

Hay consists of the entire above-ground growth of forage plants -- sometimes including seeds of grasses and legumes -- that is harvested, dried and used for animal feed, according to museum curator Rita Graef.

"Throughout the early days of this country, Pennsylvania led the other colonies and states in the production of food," she said. "It was the breadbasket of the nation and a leader in haymaking."

Hay and forage expert John Baylor, Penn State professor emeritus of agronomy extension, will be on hand at the open house to share stories of the history of haymaking and answer questions.

"Many people wonder, what's the difference between hay and straw? What was hay like a century ago? Why was baling technology developed in the very late 19th century, and what did farmers and animal owners do before then to feed their horses and livestock?" Graef said.

"Our newest exhibit at the Pasto Agricultural Museum answers these and other questions, with photographs and video footage to show how horse-drawn field equipment worked and what kind of work was involved in 'putting up the hay.'"

Open house attendees can see displays of hay forks and harpoons, once used to transfer loose hay from wagon to hay mow, Graef noted. And the museum's new timber-frame barn shows several types of hay tracks in addition to pulley systems that made the work easier.

"We have on exhibit an exquisite model of an 1803 barn without ridge pole, which may have used a pulley system to load hay, or men would have loaded hay by hand with pitch forks," Graef said. "We will demonstrate a pulley system and the later-developed hay track in the new barn structure inside the museum."

Barn construction evolved as hay tracks became more prevalent. Ridge poles (horizontal timber at the peak of a roof, to which the upper ends of the rafters are fastened) were designed into barns as buildings were engineered to hold loads carried by the track and trolley system.

Visitors can make and take home straw stars, weaving pieces of straw into geometric patterns -- a craft that originated in Eastern Europe.

The Pasto Museum features hundreds of rare farm and home implements from the "muscle-power era," before the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered engines. "By seeing and touching tools and equipment used in early agriculture and rural life, people will better understand and appreciate how early technological developments led to modern-day technologies," Graef explained.

The museum is welcoming visitors this fall from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday during Penn State home football weekends as part of an initiative to increase public awareness of the museum's collection.

More information about the museum and its open house series is available at

Operated by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pasto Agricultural Museum is located on the Ag Progress Days site at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45.


Historic photo of bringing in hay before baling technology was invented. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated September 28, 2012