National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame

National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame



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National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, commonly known as the Ag Center, is situated in Kansas City, Missouri. The 172-acre complex contains three display buildings that house a vast collection of machinery of the past and present in addition to the innovative ideas for the future.The Hall of Fame in this center was built to honor the individuals for the outstanding national or international contributions to the establishment, development, advancement or improvement of agriculture. It also provides education, information, experience and recognition thus equipping them to honor the leadership in Agri-Business.National Agricultural Center became a reality on August 31, 1960 when the federal charter was issued by an act of the 86th Congress, signed by the President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The center serves as the national museum of agriculture and a memorial to the farming leaders.NAC mainly focuses on the American farmer and farming, the rural heritage of agriculture in America, and the science and technology of farming that shapes the world of tomorrow. It educates the audience of all ages and provides activity-based learning experiences and research opportunities.An educational tour through the complex reveals about the various facts of the history and importance of agriculture. The place offers family entertainment activities including train rides, hay rides, petting zoo, pony rides and living history demonstrations.The center also holds the Smith Event Barn, a 750-seat pavilion, and the Rural Electric Conference Theater, a 200-seat auditorium, for various events and functions. National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame receives no funding from the government and is entirely dependent on the contributions by individuals, corporations and foundations.


National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame - History

630 Hall of Fame Drive
Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012
(913) 721-1075

Closed for winter
Reopening April 27, 2019
Wednesday - Saturday: 10AM - 4PM
$5 adults $2 children

The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame was chartered in 1960 to educate society on the historical and present value of American agriculture and to honor leadership in Agri-Business and Academia by providing education, information, experience and recognition.

The center includes three museum buildings: National Farmer's Memorial, National Poultry Museum, and "Farm Town U.S.A."

The main museum building houses the unique features of the National Agricultural Center: The National Agricultural Hall of Fame and The National Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame. There is also a gift shop, some rural living exhibits and a theater that was out of service when the Agricultural Center was visited in 2007.

The second museum is the Museum of Farming. It houses a collection of antique farm machinery and implements.

Farm Town U.S.A. has elements of a 1900s rural community including a railroad depot, caboose, narrow gauge railroad, farmhouse, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, general store, and poultry hatchery. Some of the buildings are original and others are replicas.

Most visitors to the National Agricultural Center will be satisfied with a 90 minute visit. Perhaps a bit longer if they chose to hike the one mile nature trail. More animals would be nice. There were only a few chickens when the Center was visited.

Train and hay wagon rides are available to groups with advance reservations for an additional charge.


38 Americans were inducted into The National Agricultural Hall of Fame through 2006.


Walking plow used by President Harry S. Truman in the early 1900s.


Mechanical and Still Bank collection.


The Agricultural Center's barb wire collection includes over 500 varieties of barbed wire.


Farm Town USA


Farm machinery and implements in the 20,400 square feet Museum of Farming


Prairie Wind Traveler - replica wind wagon.


1887 Morris Livestock Shipping Depot


Willie Nelson To Enter the Agricultural Hall of Fame

In regard to the struggle of American family farmers, Willie Nelson has always said, “If you eat, you’re involved.” Similarly, the Agricultural Hall of Fame finds its foundation in the idea that “Agriculture touches the lives of every living person.” So it came as little surprise when the institution announced on July 21st that Willie would be inducted as the latest outstanding contributor to the success of American agriculture.

The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame was issued a rare federal charter by the act of the 86th Congress to serve as the national museum of agriculture and to honor the American farmer. Given Willie’s commitment to family farmers, it makes perfect sense that Willie is part of that legacy! His induction ceremony will be held on August 13th in Kansas City, Kansas, before the start of Farm Aid 2011, the annual Farm Aid concert and the centerpiece of Willie’s approach to saving small American farms.

Willie grew up in Abbott, Texas, where he picked cotton and corn, baled hay, and gained respect and admiration for family farmers and the value of hard work. Willie founded Farm Aid on those principles in 1985, pledging to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farmers on their land. Over the past 26 years, Farm Aid has raised more than $39 million to promote family farm agriculture. Beyond raising money, Willie has also put the family farmer center stage, raising awareness about the crucial need to have family farmers on the land, for good food, our health and a strong economy. By strengthening the voices of family farmers, Willie and Farm Aid ensure that they will continue to thrive and nourish our country for years to come.

Upon being inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame, Willie will join the ranks of several household names in addition to a number of understated agricultural pioneers. George Washington was inducted for his innovations in fertilization and soil erosion prevention on his 12,000-acre plantation, Mount Vernon. Abraham Lincoln enacted legislation that allocated land for the establishment of agricultural colleges and homesteading communities that would help to settle the nation. John Deere was inducted for his role in developing a durable steel plow that could turn the tough soils of the Midwest, and Eli Whitney for his invention of the cotton gin. Squanto was another inductee, honored for helping the starving Pilgrims to survive by teaching them to fish and plant corn using fish as fertilizer.

Perhaps less familiar figures, Arthur Capper and Andrew Volstead were both inducted in 1984 for their sponsorship of the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922. The Act guaranteed the rights of farmers to organize and operate cooperatives without fear of governmental anti-trust backlash. Luther Burbank is another highly influential inductee, as he developed over 800 plant hybrids and crossbreeds, giving us delicious varieties of peaches, plums, and blackberries.

All of us staff here at Farm Aid are so happy that Willie has been recognized with this award. It couldn’t have happened to a more vocal, committed supporter of family farmers (though, of course we’d love to see John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews inducted next!).


National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame - History

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research: Peoria, IL

The National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) is among the largest agricultural research centers in the United States. NCAUR employs nearly 250 scientists and support staff in research to improve agricultural production, food safety and public health, economic development, and environmental quality.

Under the USDA Industrial Hemp Initiative, NCAUR scientists are developing analytical methods to facilitate efficient utilization of oil, protein, and fiber from industrial hemp. New technologies that enable the commercial manufacture of co-products (both food and industrial) will be developed to support industrial hemp farming and biobased manufacturing in the U.S.

What do amaranth, chia, sorghum, quinoa, and teff have in common? They are called “ancient grains” - a category of grains that are minimally changed by selective breeding and loaded with health-promoting nutrients. ARS scientists are developing technologies to incorporate these grains into every-day food products that Americans love and enjoy.

Microwave reactors are used to make biobased plastics from corn, soybeans and low-cost agricultural waste such as corn fiber, rice hulls, wheat or barley straw, cotton gin trash. The method to such microwave "madness" is two-fold: to lessen the environmental "footprint" of using petrochemical-based plastics and to create new uses for agricultural commodities and renewable sources.

Fusarium fungi cause Fusarium Head Blight, or scab, a devastating disease of wheat and barley in the US. To aid in their battle against the pathogenic Fusarium, NCAUR scientists have recruited the friendly fungus Sarocladium zeae. Sarocladium reduces scab damage from the Fusarium and decreases the levels of a dangerous toxin, vomitoxin

NCAUR scientists have developed a process to produce butanol, a cleaner burning alternative gasoline, from crushed remains of Lesquerella seed whose oil has been extracted. Lesquerella also known as Yellow Top is native to the United States.


What To Expect At The National Agriculture Center

The promise of a warm Spring day in Kansas City can often change quickly. Such was the case when we visited the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas. We were meeting up with a group of social influencers who had been invited to an Instameet being hosted by Visit Kansas City, Kansas. By the time we arrived, a blustery wind had brought in clouds, cooler temperatures, and the threat of rain. At least the first portion would be indoors.

We want to thank the Ag Hall of Fame and Visit KCK for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.

Education for All Ages

The Ag Hall is designed to showcase the role that agriculture has played in the foundation of this country. The museum is set up to have something to interest all ages. As we entered the Gallery, the first exhibit we found was a children’s play area. It has a lot of things to hold the interest of school age and younger kids. With none in the area at this hour of the morning, we could only imagine the shrieks and squeals that would accompany the activity.

Show Me The Honey

Moving into the next area, we entered a series of rooms designed to shed light on our declining population of honey bees. We are sure most of you are aware of this disturbing pattern, and the Ag Hall does a good job at explaining the important role that these pint-sized pollinators play in the food chain. The area is decorated like the interior of a hive and has plenty of informational placards to help drive home the message.

The Midwest has long been considered the breadbasket of America, so the declining population of bees should be taken seriously by us locals. Portions of this exhibit explain the steps that each of us can take to help prevent further damage to this vital species. There are even some items for kids to play dress up as a beekeeper to help parents open a dialogue with them about the importance of honey bees.

Something For Everyone

After we passed the bee exhibit, we came to an area that was filled with a variety of displays. Here we found everything form telephones to old banks. The latter was quite interesting to me. I have to admit that I’ve always been fascinated by these old mechanical devices. There are a wide range of them on display, many of which I never realized even existed. Have you ever seen a Jonah and the Whale bank where they are throwing Jonah off the ship?

As we made the turn back into the main gallery, we found a collection of toy tractors. These shiny vehicles reminded us of our visit to the Deanna Rose Farmstead where kids can ride these around a track. We’re betting there are a lot of visitors who have to explain to their kids that these are just for looking at and not for riding.

Speaking of Tractors

After touring the Gallery, it was time to take this show on the road. By that I mean, head outdoors to the other exhibit buildings. First we had to prepare for the cool winds, but soon we were out and about on the grounds of the Ag Hall. The first building we came to holds the Museum of Farming. Here we found over 20,000 feet of space dedicated to the farming industry. Most of the artifacts are antique farming machines and implements.

Obviously, motorized machinery hasn’t always been in use, so there are displays dedicated to the equipment used during the period of horsepower. These days we usually only see horse drawn items at special events or reenactments. For those working the farmlands it would have been an everyday occurrence.

Moving out into the larger area behind the main building we took a stroll down the road toward the Farm Town exhibit. This collection of turn of the century buildings recreates life in a small plains town. Our first stop was at the Santa Fe Depot located along the narrow gauge rails. The diminutive train wasn’t running this day, but does for special events. Check their website (Use the link at the beginning of the article.) for a calendar of events.

The next building was filled with anvils. At first it didn’t seem all that thrilling, but as we toured it we realized the importance of this simple tool. Life in those days would have required the assistance of a good blacksmith. This would have been an integral person to have in every community, and in most, the smithy was held in high regard. It just takes thinking about things in the right perspective.

We stepped into the Island Creek Schoolhouse to escape an especially blustery breeze. Here we could imagine the classroom filled with young minds eager to learn about the world around them. Of course, some would be staring out the windows dreaming of being in the world around them. This building was filled with lots of period pieces that helped us relate to that time period.

With time running short, we made our way to our final stop. The Smith House is an authentic 1890’s farm home. It was donated by a pair of sisters and reassembled on its Ag Hall site. Inside is set up with many of the comforts that would have been readily available during the post Civil War era. The kitchen would have been a bustling center of activity where the three meals of the day were prepared. Exploring this room, we decided that the we are glad to have the modern conveniences of our kitchen. Even if the reliability of modern appliances are less than implements made in those earlier days.

We moved through the house and up to the second story living quarters. Here we found the bedrooms for the adults and children. A children’s tea set was set up and we could imagine hours of pretend being enjoyed by the family’s daughters. Nearby, we spotted these two dolls, that to be honest were a little creepy. It seemed like the perfect time for us to make our way back to the main building to say our goodbyes. The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame holds tons of history and is good for a couple of hours, at least. We are sure that during an event we would need to set aside more time, since there would be other activities to explore. It looks like we will need to check the calendar for one that we can attend. How many of you spent time on a farm? Did you see anything in our pictures that you recognized? Tell us about it!


Oliver Hudson Kelley

Oliver Hudson Kelley (January 7, 1826 – January 20, 1913) is one of the key founders of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, a fraternal organization in the United States.

Kelley was born in Boston, moving to the Minnesota frontier in 1849, where he became a farmer. In 1864, he got a job as a clerk for the United States Bureau of Agriculture and traveled the Eastern and Southern United States following the American Civil War. He felt a great need to gather together farmers and their families to rebuild America as he once knew it, and thought an organization of fraternal strength would best serve the needs of the farm families.

As he traveled throughout the country, Kelley built partnerships that developed into the seven original founders of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. On November 15, 1867, he laid the groundwork to build a new foundation for American agriculture through the organization of the Grange, of which he was the first secretary until he resigned in 1878.

Kelley was inducted into the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame on October 27, 2006. The Oliver H. Kelley Homestead in Elk River, Minnesota is maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society as a living history farm with interpreters giving people a taste of what Oliver Kelley's life was like on the farm in the 1850s frontier and giving a feel for modern Minnesota farming in a Farm Lab section since 2017.

In 1877, Kelley founded the town of Carrabelle, Florida, which he named for his niece.


National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Wyandotte County closes amid financial turmoil

Elementary school students attend National Agriculture Day events at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs.

Like a farmer whose crops went bust, the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame now looks toward a future harvest — this one for the money needed to reopen.

Officials at the Wyandotte County museum said Thursday they hope to scratch together the funding necessary to keep pace with upkeep and perhaps upgrade enough to draw more visitors.

The center, meanwhile, is shuttered for the second time in five years while its leaders search for solutions that could put its financial future on firmer footing.

It aims to reopen next year.

“We’re very optimistic that we will be open,” said Jody Albers, president of the center’s board of directors. “Our board is working very diligently right now. It is in strategic planning mode.”

The center sprawls over a prime location just west of Kansas Speedway. It includes museum displays such as farm machinery from the 1800s and a farm town re-creation.

Attracting 20,000 visitors a year, the center also has a hall of fame showcasing the nation’s agricultural leaders going back to George Washington. The International Lineman’s Rodeo is held there yearly.

The center will continue with its annual events through the rest of the year, including the Lineman’s Rodeo.

In 1960, Congress issued a federal charter creating the national museum of agriculture. Although several states have state agriculture halls of fame, only Kansas has the national hall. It does not receive any government funding.

Already carrying a heavy debt load, the center bled money for at least the last four years, federal tax records show.

The center lost $32,000 in 2012, according to the latest tax records available. It was a marked improvement from 2009, when it listed losses of $334,000.

Compounding the losses is a $350,000 loan the center took out to stay afloat in about 2010 shortly after a staff shake-up that included laying off the executive director and the rest of the paid staff.

At the time, the center was in a financial crisis after it had eaten up between $600,000 and $700,000 gained from a 2004 land sale.

The center finances rebounded in recent years. It took in $165,000 in grants and contributions in 2012 compared to $8,769 in 2010. Total revenues nearly tripled in 2012 from 2010.

Yet hard times are back. The center is struggling to pay for overseeing five buildings on about 165 acres in Bonner Springs. It has no executive director and is run by two-part time employees.

The loan the center took out in 2010 now exceeds its operating budget of about $300,000. The cost of overseeing the center compromises the staff’s ability to make its exhibits more modern and interactive.

“Our day-to-day expenses are very high,” Albers said. “The walk-in traffic can’t support the day-to-day expenses.”

The museum also was hit by the death of a donor who contributed between $25,000 and $40,000 a year to help with operations.

“We were definitely getting better,” Albers said. “We were increasing everything we needed to increase. It’s just not enough.”


SJ AG HALL OF FAME

OCTOBER 22, 2018. BY BOB HIGHFILL, LODI WINEGRAPE COMMISSION.

2018 Honorees with plaques

Richard Ripken

Lodi likely wouldn’t have the diversity it enjoys today were it not for Richard “Rip” Ripken and his desire to learn and experiment.

Among his numerous accomplishments, Ripken helped introduce Lodi to a host of new winegrapes through his own research and with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

“We’ve got the climate, the soil and the water and now we’ve got the talent, both winemakers and growers, that do fantastic things on so many varieties,” Ripken said. “We make them consistently outstanding. I figure I was a part of that.”

Ripken, along with winegrape grower and vintner Stephen Borra, agriculture advocate and educator Laura Wheeler Tower, former San Joaquin County Viticulture Farm Advisor Paul Verdegaal and former Pomology Farm Advisor Donald Rough (posthumous) were inducted into the San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame on Oct. 18 at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

“I’m truly honored,” Ripken said. “There’s a great group of people in that hall of fame and to be included, I’m honored.”

Ripken was born and raised in Lodi and graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Davis. Ripken promoted a district varietal shift from historically grown table grapes, such as Tokay and Carignane, to more quality driven red and white varietals and worked with Dr. HP Olmo of UC Davis, along with the Cooperative Extension, on trials of more than 200 crosses of wine grapes. Ripken worked closely with the late Jim Kissler and Verdegaal, Kissler’s successor as Farm Advisor. Ripken helped establish the Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission and the National Grapevine Importation and Clean Stock Facility at UC Davis.

In 1991, Ripken introduced Viognier among many other wine grape varieties to Lodi and now farms more than 50 varieties. In 2003, he and his wife, Nancy, and their family started a bonded winery, Ripken Vineyards and Winery, and in 2006, opened their tasting room on Sargent Road in Lodi.

Paul Verdegaal

Verdegaal grew up in Ripon and graduated from UC Davis. During his tenure as Farm Advisor, a post he held for more than 30 years, Verdegaal helped remove the stigma that Lodi could not grow premium wine grapes through exhaustive research, leadership and work with growers.

During Verdegaal’s tenure as Farm Advisor, the grape and wine industry in San Joaquin County flourished. Thirty years ago, there were 43,370 acres of grapes cultivated in San Joaquin County. In 2017, there were close to 100,000 acres. In 1986, Lodi was first recognized as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) but many, including the University, still felt that premium wine varietals could not be grown commercially in the Valley. Verdegaal worked hard to change that stigma.

Verdegaal’s research, leadership, and support have contributed to the evolution of the Lodi wine region. In 1992, he began a Varietal Observation Trial where wine grape varieties from around the world were planted and evaluated on the commercial potential and suitability to San Joaquin County’s unique geography. Some varieties from this trial remain obscure, others such as Viognier, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Petite Sirah are now widely planted and many such as Tempranillo, Verdelho and Teroldego are gaining notoriety.

Said Verdegaal at Lodi Grape Day in February, “Today, the Lodi AVA produces Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Rhone, German and other varieties, as well as Pinot Grigio and Pinot noir, varieties that were not even imaginable for the region in the early 1980s.”

Steve Borra

In 1975, Steve Borra and his wife, Beverly, started Borra Vineyards, Lodi’s first bonded boutique winery known for its unique style of wine combined with creativity and innovation. Borra’s philosophy is that good wine is made in the field.

In 1992, Borra began growing premium grapes on 200 acres and sells his premium product as grapes in the bin, bins of crushed juice, or processed and bottled. In 2012, Borra Vineyards was named Winery of the Year by Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau.

As his brand grew, Borra saw the need for irrigation suppliers and pump companies. In 1983, he established Lodi Irrigation, which has influenced and supported irrigation agriculture in California and elsewhere as growers have switched from flood irrigation to drip irrigation. His company has provided growers with the supplies and designs for efficient irrigation systems, which maximizes quality yields.

“It’s a nice honor,” Borra said about being inducted into the hall of fame. “We’ve been working here in Lodi for a lot of years, and it’s a nice way to finish your career.”

Laura Tower

Tower grew up in the Tracy area and is a leader in agriculture education. Tower developed “Fred the Friendly Farmer,” a puppet that introduced farmers and agriculture to elementary school students, and “My Farm Book” with Emily Maberto, a coloring book that was handed out to classrooms that “Fred the Friendly Farmer” visited. In 1981, Tower and Maberto were invited to the first National Agriculture in the Classroom Convention in Washington, and Tower worked for Agriculture in the Classroom for more than 25 years.

Don Rough

Rough was raised on his family’s farm in Brentwood and attended Stockton Junior College before he served in World War II. In 1952, Rough graduated California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Pomology (the study of fruit trees). In 1955, he was appointed Senior Superintendent of Cultivation for Fresno County and a year later, he transferred to San Joaquin County as Extension Assistant and was appointed Pomology Farm Advisor in 1957.

Rough’s direct involvement was critical in the development of integrated pest management guidelines and control strategies now used widely throughout California.

Photo Credit: Bill Clough, Captivating Photos

Contact Bob Highfill, marketing and communications manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bobhighfill and @lodi_wine.

Have something interesting to say? Consider writing a guest blog article!


Farm Tales continues at Ag Hall

Children got an up-close look at farm animals during a recent Farm Tales program at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame at 126th and State Avenue in Bonner Springs. (Photo from National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame) Children got an up-close look at farm animals during a recent Farm Tales program at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame at 126th and State Avenue in Bonner Springs. (Photo from National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame)

The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs will hold free monthly-themed Farm Tales story and activity times for children ages 4 to 12 in May and June.

The next program is at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 20. The theme is “Full of Beans – Henry Ford Grows a Car.” The storytime activity will be a soybean scavenger hunt.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, June 17, the theme will be “The Beeman.” During the storytime activity, children will meet a local beekeeper, taste honey and plant a mini-pollinator garden.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 19, the theme will be “Tales of the Dairy Godmother.” The storytime activity will be butter and ice-cream making activities.

Pre-registration is required for Farm Tales.

Another agricultural education program scheduled at the Ag Hall on Saturday, May 1, is Chick Day, sponsored by the Heartland Hatchery.

A chick seminar is planned from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Ag Hall, with sales of chicks, ducks, turkeys and goslings following from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, see https://www.aghalloffame.com/chick-day-may-1-2021/.

The Ag Hall is at 630 N. 126th St., near 126th and State Avenue.

Visitors are encouraged to call first. For more information, visit www.aghalloffame.com or call 913-721-1075.


Designed by Bird Engineering, it originally opened in 1984, [1] as the Sandstone Center for the Performing Arts. It was renamed 'Verizon Wireless Amphitheater', in June 2002, after Verizon Wireless bought the naming rights, for seven years, from Houston-based Clear Channel Entertainment, for an undisclosed amount. Clear Channel Communications spun off its live events management division, in 2005, to form Los Angeles-based Live Nation, which continued to manage the venue through the 2007 concert season. Locals simply refer to the venue as "Sandstone".

In September 2007, Live Nation announced that it would let its managing contract expire, on December 31, 2007. In January 2008, the Unified Government Commission ratified a pact with local promoter Chris Fritz's New West Presentations, Inc., to operate the venue through the end of 2009, with a two-year option to extend the contract. Under the new deal with New West, the name would revert to Sandstone.

Through 2007, the venue featured 6,700 reserved seats and general admission lawn seating. Beginning in 2008, plans are underway to remove the majority of the reserved seats closest to the stage, in order to make that area a general admission section. The change in the seating configuration is designed to let more fans get closer to the performers and eliminate costs of the extra security normally required. Additional structural changes include an upgraded VIP club and new sound and video systems. Through the years the stage has fought several limitations. For instance, a 37-foot roof is well below the norm, which often proves challenging to book shows.


Many of those living in the Midwest over the past six decades remember the big, booming voice of Orion Samuelson that explained the business of agriculture and food production in an understandable way. He was a good guy and a good listener. [3]

Samuelson was born on a dairy farm in Ontario, Wisconsin, near LaCrosse. Growing up on the farm Samuelson was expected to take over the family business, but a leg disease made it impossible to do heavy work. [4] He considered becoming a Lutheran pastor before deciding on six months of radio school. His early work was based in Wisconsin, at WKLJ in Sparta, WHBY in Appleton, and WBAY-TV/AM in Green Bay.

Samuelson was heard on WGN radio in Chicago for sixty years as the station's head agriculture broadcaster from 1960 through 2020. In May of 1960, one of Mr. Samuelson's first assignments for WGN was to emcee the National Barn Dance, a long running program that WGN had just acquired when WLS radio discontinued its association with Prairie Farmer magazine. WLS had converted to "The Station With Personality" and started playing rock 'n' roll. Three years into his tenure at WGN, Samuelson was the staffer that read the news of the John F. Kennedy assassination. His career led him to have dinner at the White House and travel to 43 countries [5] including Cuba, where he shook hands with Fidel Castro, Moscow where he met with Mikhail Gorbachev, and England to broadcast live from the Royal Agricultural Show (aka Royal Show). He traveled with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Prime Minister of India to see the Taj Mahal. [6] He interviewed and or met every US President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Donald Trump, [7] including John F. Kennedy (when he was still a Senator), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, [8] [9] and finally, after he was 20 years out of the Oval Office, Harry S. Truman. [10]

During the 1960s, Samuelson hosted an early-morning show on WGN-TV, Top 'O' the Morning, first with organist Harold Turner, then with Armstrong. From 1975 to 2005, Samuelson was the host of U.S. Farm Report, a weekly television news magazine dedicated to agriculture. U.S. Farm Report continued without Samuelson after his departure. Samuelson hosted a similar show, This Week in Agribusiness, along with Armstrong, until his retirement. Both shows aired on 190 Midwest stations [11] via first-run syndication. [2]

Politically, Samuelson supported the production of ethanol fuel from corn, to help American farmers. [12]

On the lighter side, Samuelson and a studio group dubbed the "Uff da Band" once recorded covers of Yogi Yorgesson's novelty songs I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas and Yingle Bells. Samuelson held the same position in the broadcasting industry for 60 consecutive years through 2020, [13] second only to Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network announcer Vin Scully.

In 2001, Samuelson was named a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and was awarded the Order of Lincoln – the highest award bestowed by the State of Illinois. The University of Illinois presented Samuelson with the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. He was honored at the 2010 Wisconsin Corn/Soy Expo in Wisconsin Dells. Samuelson received a custom-engraved Norwegian horse plaque to commemorate the occasion from presidents of the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, the Wisconsin Soybean Association, the Wisconsin Agri-Services Association and the Wisconsin Pork Association. On December 9, 2010 the southwest corner of E. Illinois Street & N. Cityfront Plaza Drive was named 'Orion Samuelson Way' by the city of Chicago. [14] [15] In 2014 he was awarded the VERITAS award by American Agri-Women (AAW) Organization. [16]

Samuelson serves as a Board Member Emeritus for the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation (IALF) having previously served as Chairman of the Board. He also serves on the Farm Foundation Bennett Round Table, and is a former member of the Board of the Agriculture Future of America, the Board of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, the board of directors of the Foods Resource Bank, a former trustee of the Cornerstone Foundation of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and a former member of the board of trustees of the National 4-H Council. [17]

On November 1, 2012 Samuelson published his autobiography "You Can’t Dream Big Enough" was published by Bantry Bay Media. [18]

In 2014 the CME Group and the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) Foundation announced the inaugural recipient of the Orion Samuelson Scholarship ($5,000) for a senior at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The scholarship is presented to a college student seeking a career in agricultural communications. [19]

On September 23, 2020 Samuelson announced his retirement from WGN Radio. His final broadcast on WGN was the noon business report on December 31, 2020. [20] [21]


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