Recalling district’s farming history
From Horse to Tractor – Through the Years is an exhibition of agricultural machinery at the Firth Tower Museum, opening on February 11 at 10am in the extended Mark Madill Shed.
Matamata Historical Society members have been working on this exhibition for nearly five years with funds from the Lottery Board, donations and historical society fundraising.
Farm machinery, nearly all from the Matamata district, shows farming development in the district from pre-european agriculture to large-scale farming in the Josiah Firth and John Mccaw eras, then smaller scale settler farming.
It shows horse- drawn implements and the introduction of tractors.
Placing the machinery in the order it would have been used and enlarged photos are the exhibition’s outstanding features.
These photos, all from Matamata farms, show machines being hauled by horses or tractors and help to bring the exhibition to life.
There are also large explanatory panels with photos at the beginning of each section and small panels on the hand rails around the walkway describing what each machine was used for.
To view the displays, visitors will be using the winding wooden walkway built by volunteers.
Matamata businesses were used to build the extension on the original shed, to do the electrical work, design the text panels, and print and enlarge the photos.
The storyline starts from Maori agriculture which features a bird- catching device ( waka- kereru) and information about the use of the ko, or digging stick.
Large- scale farming shows a double- furrow plough and a seed drill which had been used on the Matamata Estate where the paddocks ranged from 120 to 400 hectares.
A restored wagon – the farm truck of the horse era – has pride of place in its own shed.
Wagons were used to cart hay and ensilage, posts and wire, milk and cream cans, pigs and calves, and bags of artificial manure.
The text panel about the subdivision of the Matamata Estate into smaller farms in 1904 reveals that this was to allow families to settle on small farms.
This is followed by examples of potato planting and digging implements, and the story of cropping – from ploughing through discing and harrowing to planting and reaping the grain crops.
A comprehensive section on haymaking in the 1920s and 1930s starts with a horse- drawn mower and continues with a dump rake and various sweeps to gather the hay to take it to the haystack.
In the background are large photos of haymaking scenes.
Featuring prominently is a life-size cut-out Clydesdale horse between the shafts of the dump rake.
The rest of the exhibition covers the coming of tractors starting with a Farmall F12 tractor with steel wheels and ends with a collection of large harvesting machines which were used to make hay and ensilage from the 1940s to the 1970s.
A final text panel called: Into the 21st Century, covers the big changes in machinery which have revolutionised farming methods today.
The From Horse to Tractor display is well worth a visit.
It aims to preserve examples of farm machinery used in former times, to educate the young people of today about the past as well as bringing back memories to the older generation.
On display: Bob Schwarz taking milk cans from his Waharoa Rd farm to the Matamata Creamery. A copy is in the exhibition.