On-farm concert fuels music, ag passion

Sounds of Summer at Knox County farm becomes an opportunity to teach community members about farming.

Story reprinted with permission by author, Krista Swanson of Oneida. Story was originally printed by FarmWeekNow.com.
Galesburg Community Foundation was proud to support this initiative with a Discretionary Grant.

Good ideas often get overlooked and set aside because they seem too outlandish for reality. A recent event co-hosted by Knox County Farm Bureau is evidence that an idea for an unlikely partnership can be successfully executed.

Last winter, when two community leaders met for coffee, their conversation shifted toward uniting their passions. Looking to introduce community members to the local symphony and local agriculture, Lucas Wood, executive director of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, and Knox County Farm Bureau member Karlie Elliott Bowman (*Elliott Bowman is also Director of Communications for Galesburg Community Foundation)  created an idea for a collaborative event.

A committee formed with a goal to host a casual, affordable event for all ages that would entice rural and urban county residents to attend, leaving a lasting, positive impression of the agricultural industry while sparking new interest in the symphony.

The result was Sounds of Summer, a two-hour Sunday afternoon event at the Swanson family farm attended by more than 200 guests.

The symphony hosted an instrument petting zoo, where children tried many of the instruments used by the orchestra during the first half of the free, family-friendly event.

Constance Deal, a member of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony violin section, instructs Karina, right, and Bianca Swanson. The activity occurred during Knox County Farm Bureau’s Sounds of Summer event. (Photo by Krista Swanson)


Children also explored multiple hands-on activity stations, making musical instruments, including shakers, maracas, tambourines and cow bells with locally grown agriculture products, such as corn, popcorn, soybeans and wheat. Each station featured a local farmer available to converse with attendees.

One parent asked a farmer about the tractor in the shed, sparking a discussion about farm machinery and technology. Another parent, who learned of a dairy farm’s tough situation on a recent trip, wanted to know what she could do to help local dairy farmers. Conversations like these would not have occurred without the event serving as connection point.

During the second half of the event, the symphony performed an hourlong concert, including a mix of musical favorites and children’s movie tunes. Symphony members invited children to play along using their newly created instruments during two of the concert pieces.

Knox County Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom volunteers organized the agriculture activities for children, local Band Boosters managed a concession stand, and local fire department members provided emergency personnel and equipment in case of medical or heat-related illness.

As one attendee noted, “Who knew the Swanson family’s machine shed would make such a perfect concert hall?” Of course, no one did until we tried it! This event serves as a great example of how we can introduce people to agriculture by using our farms in new and different ways.

Krista Swanson is a dedicated community member, Knox County Farm Bureau member and serves as a research specialist for the University of Illinois’ Gardner Ag Policy Program.

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