By Gary Cooper
AgNet Media Founder and President
Editor’s note: Read the prologue to this article.
Connecting with Max Armstrong, host of the nationally syndicated “This Week in Agribusiness” television program, and his cameraman Ryan Ruh for a whirlwind ag tour in Central Florida turned out to be a great opportunity to see a couple things that I seldom slow down enough to enjoy right here at home. We started off on a stop Armstrong had promised to Stewart Paquette several years ago, to visit Paquette’s Antique Farmall Tractor Museum near Leesburg. Armstrong is a student of historical tractors, so fulfilling that promise was the introduction to his quick trip to Florida this week. When planning the trip, Armstrong asked if I could help him gather some other news features while in the Sunshine State. I was glad to oblige.
So bright and early Monday, we were in the midst of what must be the largest single collection of completely restored Farmall and International Harvester tractors in existence today. For a South Florida winter veggie farm boy like me, it was a treat to see. The historical significance of what Paquette has amassed — apparently as a labor of love as he is now retired from the paving business in which he used International trucks exclusively —cannot be understated. He estimates that his collection includes about half of all models of Farmall/International Harvester tractors ever produced, plus a whole lot more.
Paquette shared the history of his museum and explained how volunteers, many of them retirees who have some kind of history with these machines, are largely responsible for the restorations and displays and help to operate and maintain the facility.
Hear Paquette talk about his collection:
To stay with the antiques theme, we then headed to another appropriate stop not far up the road in Weirsdale. The Grand Oaks Resort and Museum (www.TheGrandOaks.com) was a perfect choice. Thank you to Erin Freel of The Marketplace for this suggestion.
The Antique Carriage Museum on the grounds of the resort is nothing less than incredible. Just like the tractor museum earlier that morning, the first thought that hits upon entry is, “Wow!” I wonder how many farm folks realize John Deere was in the covered wagon business long before tractors were invented. You’ll find what some believe is the only one left in existence on display in this museum. And while there, be sure to save time for a nice lunch and walk about the grounds. It’s a beautiful setting and a great place to ponder history. There are carriages and other related items on display that date back to the days before the United States gained its independence!
The first two tour stops of the day included antiques that spanned a time period of more than two hundred years. Next, we jolted forward in time to visit a state-of-the-art tissue culture facility. Agri-Starts, near Apopka, is expanding from tropical foliage and décor plants into edible varieties, as science and other advancements in food and fiber production in Florida continue.
Agri-Starts is the next topic in AgNet Media’s “This Week in Agribusiness” series. Read the story here.
See the other stories in the series:
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