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Garfield Farm Museum’s Rare Breeds Show Sunday May 21

CAMPTON HILLS, IL: On Sunday May 21 from 11 am until 4 pm spend a spring day on the farm and see historic breeds of livestock, poultry and working animals at Garfield Farm Museum’s annual Rare Breeds Livestock Show. Held with invited members of the national organization the Livestock Conservancy, the day is an opportunity to meet and learn from owners and breeders of endangered varieties of animals that humans have depended upon for survival. Exhibitors are still welcome to attend by contacting  630 584-8485

     Assuming a pig is a pig and a cow a cow shows that great separation between the average person and the real world governed by the biology and history of genetics. All domestic plants and animals were developed from wild types over thousands of years by careful selection of those individuals that produced the best offspring for human use.

     Long before there was any understanding of genetics and how traits were passed from one generation to the next, people around the world chose those plants and animals that were best suited for their immediate needs. Those needs might be how much food, fiber or work was produced by a specific breed, resistance to disease, ability to thrive under existing environmental conditions, parenting abilities, cost of production versus yield, and a host of challenges in the everyday world of survival.

     This traditional concept of developing breeds and varieties may seem to be outdated by the very nature of today’s genetic engineering capabilities but set against explosive world population growth, rapid change calls for rapid response. The thousands of years of breeding has created a wide range of genetics that might solve new challenges. Letting these historic breeds become extinct is letting these banks of special genes be depleted and wasted.

  The Livestock Conservancy has been stressing the importance of preserving these breeds but also finding as much economic value to them so the livestock and poultry enthusiast can find a way to pay for maintaining these breeds. Though not used for transportation with the advent of cars and trucks in daily life, competition in the horse industry constantly sees attempts to cross different breeds to produce a faster or more endurance abled or intelligent horse. In food production, attempts to make a super cow breed that produces the most milk and will be in demand by all dairy operations fails the challenge of different environments, costs, and new diseases. Just a preference for more favorable flavor in meats has made the modern Berkshire pig increase in popularity though the old type American Berkshire pig became extinct in the first part of the 21st century. The desire for lower levels of saturated fats in beef has called for cattle breeds that can thrive on grass.

     Only for the second time, Mulefoot hogs and for the first time, Mangalitza hogs will appear at the show. With the advent of demand for local food sources, community supported agriculture (CSA) operations help people discover the special aspects of these breeds. The Mulefoot hog become a standardized breed, one that reproduces true with a certain set of traits, by the beginning of the 20th century. According to the Livestock Conservancy, they were valued for ease of -fattening and production of meat, lard, and especially hams. Mulefoot hogs, so called for having a rot resistant solid versus cloven hoof, were distributed throughout the Corn Belt. The meat also is very red versus the typical white appearance of pork.

     The Mangalitza hog is a wooly or curly coated pig from Hungary. Less than 150 individuals survived in 1993 but their numbers have increased, as the meat is valued for its flavor, ability to be cured longer as the higher content of monosaturated fats do not turn rancid. The meat also has a healthier balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Mark Rock of Wisconsin will bring both of these breeds to the show.

     If one is looking for lean pork though, Red Wattle pork requires adding oil to the skillet to fry it. This breed almost disappeared in the 1960s. Clyde Grover of Rockford will have some piglets and Clyde is one of the most loyal veterans of the show’s 30 plus years.

      In addition to the various animals on display, Scott Paquin of Kalamazoo, MI will be bringing the Red Devon Beef Cattle Association’s display and will offer a talk on incorporating grass fed beef and other heritage breeds into local food production as he has run local food operations including vegetable production for a couple dozen years in the Carolinas. The museum’s oxen of the Milking Devon breed will be the living stand-ins for the Red Devon beef cattle. This will be of particular interest to other CSA operations in the area. One of those, Heritage Prairie Farm, located next door to Garfield Farm, will have Glen Mize on hand with a demonstration of his honeybees.

    The Winifred Hoffman family has had 3 generations raising traditional Milking Shorthorn and Dutch Belted dairy cattle. They will have some calves on hand and some Barred Rock chickens. Her daughter Martha, following in her late father’s footsteps who was an incredible speaker on rare breed husbandry, will give a lecture on rare breeds of cattle and poultry and why we need them for the future of agriculture.

      Various types of poultry will be on hand including Crevecouer, Nankin, Auburn Javas, Icelandics, and the museum’s Black Java chickens, Narragansett turkeys, Pilgrim geese, and Dutch Hookbill ducks. Tim Christakos from the Museum of Science and Industry will be on hand to sell Garfield Farm Museum’s Black Java chicks he incubated at the MSI hatchery display.

     Sheep planning to attend include Merino, Katahdin, and Montadale of which some will be shorn by Loren Marceau, one of the few sheep shearers left in northern Illinois. Illinois Green Pastures Fiber Cooperative plans on having a booth as several exhibitors plan to sell wool, yarn, wool products, and even goat milk soap.

         A couple of American LaMancha goats will accompany Peter Dordal’s Morgan horse and Hackney pony. They will be towered over by Dan Geldernick’s Percheron mare, which represents the long history of Percheron draft horses that made Mark Dunham’s late 1800s farm in Wayne, IL the largest Percheron breeding facility in the world.

     People forget that dogs were bred to meet various human needs for work. Anatolian sheep dogs were developed in Turkey to help protect flocks of sheep not to herd them like Border Collies. This guardian breed that Deb Rock plans to bring can be contrasted to Scott Paquin’s Border Collie that has actually been trained to herd cattle.

        As most Americans lose their generational ties to farming, these breed enthusiasts are all that prevent extinction of dozens of types. Just having some of the more common surviving breeds are still an eye opener as regrettably most Americans do not understand “whereby we thrive” as Jean Fabre once said.

       There is a $6 donation for adults and a $3 donation for children under 13 years of age. The day includes a tour of the 1846 brick tavern that once housed travelers on the first roads of Illinois. The recently restored 1842 threshing barn with the assistance of the Jeffris Family Foundation will be displayed and house the lectures. Inglenook Pantry will be on hand with food and refreshments for purchase.

       The museum just observed its 40th anniversary of its founding on May 12, 1977 when Elva Garfield donated 163 acres and the farm buildings to be restored as an 1840s working farm museum. The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. For further information call 630 584-8485 or e-mail Last minute rare breed owners are welcome to contact the farm to inquire of the free exhibition requirements.