UNION SPRINGS | When farm owner Ted O'Hara asked the audience at Frontenac Museum how many people grew up on a farm, nearly half of the crowd raised their hands.
On Sunday afternoon, Union Springs residents and history buffs gathered at the museum to hear how farming has changed over the years. The talk was part of a six-part series put on by the museum to educate, to remember and to honor history. And Sunday's presentation did just that.
More than 50 people gathered inside the old museum and listened as O'Hara, who's part of the family business Oakwood Dairy, shared what he knew from growing up on the farm as a child to his later years today.
"It's really interesting because in my lifetime I've seen how farms have evolved," O'Hara said. "I can remember going from no electricity in 1941 to having an efficient farm because of electricity today."
O'Hara focused on the history of old barns in Cayuga County and how they've grown and changed. The audience looked on in awe of the familiar barns that they grew up with.
"It's really interesting to get into and look at these old barns," O'Hara said. "And if you notice, we didn't have refrigeration and electricity back then, so there was a lot of hard labor, milk cans galore and the farmers doing all the work."
Today farming is very different from the early days of Oakwood Dairy back in 1941, O'Hara said. Hand mowers and planters and horse-drawn tractors acted as crucial farm equipment before tractors and heavy multi-use machinery came into play. And the farm, which began with 40 cows has evolved to more than 1,900 milking cows, machinery that runs nearly 16,000 gallons of milk each day.
But with great opportunity comes great change, O'Hara said. And the evolution of efficient computer-operated machinery has taken away a lot of work for farmers. What would require a slew of workers on the farm, could now take just a few individuals to get the work done.
Still, the point that O'Hara drove home was despite how much change, promoting New York farms is still important.
"To those driving by, some things change and some don't," O'Hara said. "And these family farms that started out in the 1800s are still family farms today in 2010."
Dona Ross, Frontenac Museum trustee, was part of the committee bringing the educational seminars to the community. It's a way to promote the museum, she said, and also a way to educate folks on what's going on around them.
"We always want to get more people involved and have more people visit and we like to think of the museum as the welcome center of this little community," Ross said. "And this is our way of coming together and doing what we can to preserve and recognize important milestones of the past and looking forward to the future."