Farm implements of bygone years used to show farm life
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
The students and faculty of Royalton Elementary School have expressed their appreciation of farm families through an art sculpture installed at the south entrance of the building. The sculpture was dedicated during a celebration of farms, May 20.
The entire student body gathered outside the entrance, joined by teachers, community members and visitors.
“This is a symbol that encourages us to consider an aspect of our school district’s success which at times might go unnoticed,” said Principal Dr. Phil Gurbada. “We wanted to celebrate and honor the great contribution made by students of farm families.”
Gurbada described the exceptional qualities in work habits, social skills and academic achievement demonstrated by a large number of these students. They work hard, respect others and enjoy themselves, he said.
Gurbada looked for three years for an artist before finding sculptor Marcia McEachron.
“Someone gave him my name and mentioned that I work with farm machinery,” McEachron said.
McEachron accepted an entire trailer full of farm machinery about 10 years ago and this was the perfect opportunity to dig into it. She chose the particular site at the school to best accentuate the sculpture.
“I put up the fence using pieces of farm machinery and my iron work,” she said.
“Marcia bent, shaped and welded those discarded items into a series of figures and symbols that communicate the best of rural farm life,” Gurbada said.
Part of the sculpture is mounted on the outside wall of the school, showing farmers, animals and a variety of farm and community images.
The scene is depicted using such eclectic items as a bill hook from a hay baler, chain links, a sprocket, a disc blade, tractor seats, hay forks, horseshoes and shovels.
“I just love the fact that there is such a commitment to the arts in the elementary school,” said Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer. “This is one shining example of that.”
“Art is an especially creative and meaningful way to communicate,” Gurbada said. “When people approach our building entrance, the sculpture welcomes them in and reminds them of a very important part of our heritage and our success.”
“I see all the artwork displayed in the school; I feel privileged to be here,” McEachron told the gathered students. “It’s all about imagination. I hope this will help instill in you to use your imagination.”
Jon Ellerbusch, Royalton superintendent, said, “I like that this is formed around different aspects of our community. Farming is featured but it also shows Royalton’s two rivers.”
Representing family farms in the Royalton-Bowlus area, Ron Borash said, “Families work hard to improve the land so that traditions and values can be passed on to the next generations. This is not just a monument to the past, but a salute to an ideal that we’ll continue to uphold on our family farms.”
Chosen at the last minute to stand in for an absent speaker, high school FFA officer Austin Schmitt gave an impromptu speech committing the FFA to greater involvement at the elementary school.
“We want to teach more about where food comes from,” he said. “It’s not the grocery store.”
Students were dismissed to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell,” picking up an ice cream treat from two dairy princesses on their way back into the school. Benton County Dairy Princess (and Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist) Katie Schmitt , a 2012 Royalton graduate, and current Royalton student and Benton County Dairy Ambassador Mary Fleck, were tickled to distribute the treats.
“We tend to think of farms as a way of life,” Lauer said. “But family farms today are also big business, even without the skyscrapers of the city.”
Gurbada believes that education in the age of “standards, testing and accountability” is out of balance.
“The arts are a way to put us back on a saner path and keep creativity within our schools alive,” he said. “We in the Royalton School District know that the farm family has enriched us and we are glad to express our appreciation. We are confident that art was the best and most heartfelt way to communicate our gratitude.”