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GroundbreakingAt long last people gathered to turn over the first spade of soil signaling the Farm Heritage Museum is on its way.

On a chilly Wednesday (Jan. 10) afternoon, friends and family of John May, 95, pushed a golden shovel into the ground at Pleasant Grove.

“Because John’s doctors wouldn’t let him come today just means we can say more about him; brag about him a bit,” said Overton McGehee, May’s nephew.

May grew up on his family’s Fluvanna farm where he learned the art of horse farming.

He stayed home to keep the farm going while his brothers went to fight in World War II, McGehee said.

May, who at one time served on the Board of Supervisors, became interested in collecting old farm equipment. As his collection grew, he wanted others to enjoy it. That desire was the seed of Old Farm Day, first held in 1996 at Pleasant Grove.

So many attended Old Farm Day to see the old tractors, hand and field tools May collected, he thought of building a museum to house it.
May “wants us all to know the people we came from worked really, really hard and that we as people have always been innovating,” McGehee said. “In this museum you’ll see the evolution of farming from 1865 through 1965. Uncle John would want us to remember we always need to keep looking for new ways to plow the ground and improve what we produce.”

Marvin Moss, the president of the Fluvanna Historical Society executive committee, spoke to the crowd.

“When John May said he’d be willing to donate his collection, a group started raising money in 2011,” Moss said. “We started out with $70,000 in grants, and then raised $200,000 from people in Fluvanna County. This is a public-private partnership. Most jurisdictions don’t do this, but we do it well.”

The county put the project out to bid, and in November, awarded it to Fuog/Interbuild, Inc. At the same meeting, supervisors voted 4-1 to cover the difference between the $285,425 that had been raised and the anticipated final cost of $339,895.

Supervisor Don Weaver (Cunningham) was the lone dissenting vote. Weaver joined fellow Supervisors Mike Sheridan (Columbia), Tony O’Brien (Rivanna), Patricia Eager (Palmyra), and Mozell Booker (Fork Union) in the dignitaries section of the ceremony.

John Fuog was there as well. “This project intrigued us because it’s a beautiful project. We knew immediately we wanted to bid on it,” Fuog said. “It will have a period appearance and we’ll try to find hardware from that time period,” or the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Justin May, 20, John May’s great-great nephew, attended. He said he spent many days with his uncle “running around trying to find all his collectibles. I went everywhere with him.”
Booker said she was happy to see the museum come to fruition. “I’ve always been excited about this museum,” she said. “I kept wanting to hurry up and begin because [May] is getting up in age. Let’s get this done. Let’s not drag it out.”

Fuog said they’ll bring in equipment to break up the ground and bring in soil to level the site next week.
“We’ll definitely be done by Old Farm Day,” he said. Old Farm Day is scheduled for May 5.