Commerce is coming to Sunnybrook Farm Museum.
Cooperative Mercantile Store is under construction at the 30th Street museum that tells the story of the local pioneer farming community.
Ian Warwick, museum executive director, said the building will be divided into a farm equipment shop and general store that will also include a bank desk which was typical in the early days.
“You could barter for eggs and milk. If they had extra butter, they would trade it,” Warwick said.
“Long term we’re hoping to get a little church in here, maybe a little elevator, a little train station as well. Places of social and economic activity of the farm community.”
The museum opened Roseneath Garage in 2013 with three automobiles including a 1911 MaLaughlin Buick.
Located on 10 acres donated by Norman and Iva Bower in 1988, the farm museum has 10 buildings, big and small, filled with farm artifacts, along with 35 tractors and other farming equipment.
Sunnybrook’s collection includes about 1,500 artifacts and 500 artifacts on loan from the Red Deer Museum.
“It’s an unique place right in the middle of Red Deer. It’s 10 acres that are going to be protected for all time.”
The mercantile, which will open in April 2016, will tell the story of the first farm cooperatives and the businesses they established.
The concrete foundation was poured last October with the bulk of construction starting in March by a core group of six volunteers.
“They have been working hard. An amazing group of fellows.”
Construction of the $250,000 building should be done in July then work will begin on developing the exhibits inside.
The museum’s first handicapped-accessible washrooms will operate at the back of the mercantile hopefully by July.
Hands-on school programs at Sunnybrook Farm Museum annually draw about 2,500 students, pre-school to Grade 5, who learn how to make butter, cook bannock on a wood stove, and other farm chores.
Warwick said students will really appreciate the flush toilets. Currently they use the outhouses or portable toilets.
“They don’t like them,” he laughed.
The mercantile is part of the museum’s plan to enhance the property south of its steel barn.
The museum entrance will be relocated to the south side off Botterill Crescent by late 2016.
New water and sanitary lines and will be installed this year, along with a sidewalk.
Next year work will begin on Calder School, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1932 and moved to the museum in 2006. Catering services provided by the museum will be relocated to the basement of the school and museum offices will be added onto the structure. The Bower’s farmhouse will remain where it is and revert back to a traditional farmhouse.
An interpretive centre is also planned for the south side.
Warwick said it will take 10 or 15 years to complete all the projects.
On Saturday, the museum kicked off the tourist season with its annual event Spring on the Farm.
About 4,000 people annually come out to museum events.
“Our two primary markets are the very young and very old. The little kids love it because they’re learning about stuff. Seniors come here reminiscing about their parents driving tractors like that,” Warwick said pointing to the row of old-fashioned farm machinery.
He said children who have never visited a farm enjoy meeting the farm animals from local farms who live at Sunnybrook during the summer.
“Everyone at the time had a mixed farm.”
Two turkeys recently arrived to join a donkey, a miniature horse, two young pigs, a rabbit, goats, sheep, calves and chickens with one rooster.
“We’re the only ones in Red Deer to have a rooster. The bylaw doesn’t allow it,” said Warwick about the city’s rules regarding residential chickens.
Admission is by donation to the museum which makes the site more inviting to parents, he said.
“We like to be accessible. That’s why we don’t charge admission. That’s why we’re open seven days a week. That’s why we allow people, even the gates are closed, to come in at least until dark. They can walk on the site and enjoy it in the evenings too.”
For more information visit sunnybrookfarmmuseum.ca.