story by Kevin Trobaugh, volunteer contributor | written November 2016
As a farmer in McDonald, PA, Harry Meyer has long enjoyed sharing his agricultural knowledge with young minds. Years ago, while he was still visiting South Fayette elementary, middle, and high school students, Harry would stand in the front of classrooms clutching a green stalk in his hand and ask the classes if they knew what was in his hand. More often than not, the students didn’t know the answer, but from time to time a student – typically one who grew up on a farm – would offer up the correct answer: a Soybean.
Harry would tell his young audience: “Before you go to bed tonight, you will have used or ingested some part of this plant.” He would then explain the ubiquitous use of soybean in food products, and its surprising use in a wide range of consumer, commercial, and industrial products from crayons to engine oil. He would also speak about the history of Cyrus McCormick’s “grain reaper”, then the development of threshers and steam engines—all developments that revolutionized farm work beyond the power of men, women, and horses.
Many teachers would bring their students to Harry’s farm to allow them to further their agricultural education and experience the land, the crops, and even see his “museum” of old farm equipment, as he loosely calls it. Harry is still adding to this museum, and it includes tractors, plows, even old, still-operational reapers and threshers.
Over the years, Harry has visited countless classrooms and led several tours of the museum and his 45-acre farm, once part of a 200-acre family-owned general farm with cows, chickens, sheep, crops of grain. Because of Harry’s efforts, the family farm trees, plants, gardens, equipment, and buildings became a living classroom for kids and teachers who walked the fields, explored the wooded areas, or watched a thresher separate husk from stalk.
Harry was eager—and still is at age 84—to share his story and perspective on farming, technology, history, and future development of land and ideas. His eagerness is now directed toward preserving the farm so that it remains an outdoor classroom of nature and agricultural conservation. He plans to donate all 45 acres to Allegheny Land Trust to ensure that those same hills, trees, soy stalks, and machines will continue to educate more and more students about agriculture, and inspire people to treasure the outdoors for generations to come.
We first published this supporter story in November 2016; Harry passed away in March 2018.