Posted by Chuck Chase on Mar 29, 2019
Melissa Tsuji is a member of the Career Counseling Department at Siena Heights and Jerry Roessler is retired and a veteran member of the Blissfield Rotary Club. They are both board members of the American Farm Museum & Education Center on hand to bring members up to date on the progress made to raise funds for and to create a farm campus in Blissfield. The property is located west of the McDonald’s restaurant in Blissfield off Jefferson Street. It was the former Home Canning Company site.
A 9-member board spearheads the organization and Pete Durbin is their CEO and Melissa is their President. Their strategic goals include: creating a unified campus building planned and constructed in stages; becoming a nationally-recognized educational center which will capture the significance of the American farmer and explain their important role in the food production process; construct storage for museum exhibits which includes their 13,000 toy collection, and 315 children pedal tractors, etc. They toys, Melissa said, were gifted to them by the late Charles and Barbara Burkholder valued at over $1M! Once electricity is available in the multi-purpose barn, these items will be moved into it for a small exhibition, she said.
Melissa said that they were gifted an 1860’s era barn by the Miller Murbaugh family which was dismantled by an Amish organization the sections of which currently sit in 5 semitrailers in their storage facility. The barn will eventually be re-erected and serve as education space on the campus. The foundation for the building has been poured and the “skeleton will soon start to go up”, she said.
Melissa said that there are 4 key areas they will be focusing on: Build, engage, educate, and sustain. The site plan and concept for the campus was developed by renowned architect, Friedrich St. Florian who also designed the WW II memorial in Washington DC! Melissa sat on the committee that helped build the memorial, she said! It was her grandfather, a WWII veteran, who proposed this project back in 1987!
Melissa said that the organization is current engaging in fundraising opportunities. The total goal is $20M, Melissa said. The organization has synergistic relationships with both the U of M and MSU and specifically with their museum faculties who are both interested in this project. The Education Center, she said will be THE key component on the campus. It will also serve as a meeting site and high tech facility for “all kinds of interested groups working in the AG industry”, she said. Their Farm to Table dinner events have also helped bring in needed money for the campaign. Melissa said they are currently looking to hire a Director/Fundraiser.
She described in detail how our club could help should we wish to donate to a number of projects that need to be completed: They need $28,000 to complete the re-erection of the 1860s barn, $16,000 for their electrical contract, $10,000 for poplar siding and $4,000 for a steel roof. Melissa closed by mentioning their Facebook page and info should we wish additional info at the American Farm Museum and Education Center, P.O. Box 37, Blissfield 49228 and at