Barnacopia Agriculture Museum
This three-story, 11,250-square-foot attraction began with a simple idea: Lifelong Ogle County, Illinois farmer Gary Bocker wanted his grandchildren to see what farming was like when he was their age. So he purchased a 1950 Ford tractor, the kind he first drove when he was little more than a toddler, an 8N model. And he kept on buying old tractors – some already restored and some of which he restored himself.
By 2011, Bocker had so many tractors that he and wife Judy, who passed away in 2015, decided to build a museum to hold them all. Constructed in the wooden peg style used in early barn raisings and finished in 2013 – just in time for a grandson’s wedding – the space houses 20 antique and vintage tractors, around a dozen classic cars and scores of historical agricultural equipment, along with Bocker family photos and vignettes that hearken back to small-town America. Barnacopia commemorates not only Ogle County’s agricultural heritage but its local history and culture as well.
Upon entering, tour passengers will walk across a glass floor partition above that 1950 Ford 8N tractor to see a Dairy Queen diner, with a black-and-white checkered floor and counter outfitted with red vinyl stools, where they’ll enjoy free ice cream following their tour. There’s also an A&P storefront, and first-floor restrooms are designed to resemble businesses from nearby Polo, Illinois, establishments Bocker’s family patronized in his youth: a women’s room called Hazel’s Dress Shop; a men’s room fashioned after Muencher’s Shoe Store. The brick in front of these “stores” was actually rescued from Polo’s Main Street.
Farm equipment on display here ranges from a red and white International Harvester pick-up and a variety of plows to a primitive hand-cranked corn sheller and the cow water trough from Bocker’s father’s farm, now stocked with koi.
Bocker typically gives a full tour of the downstairs and then allows visitors to explore the rest of the space on their own, although the guided tour can continue if the group desires. The second floor has a variety of exhibits: a drive-in movie theatre vignette with a working big-screen TV; a chapel; a service station display with vintage oil cans and visible and other vintage gas pumps; a 1953 Chevy – Bocker’s favorite piece – the same car his parents drove when he was growing up.
The top floor includes a Green Bay Packer area; desks from a one-room school and a school bell from Ogle County’s West Branch School; and a bed with a headboard and riser made with the barn door from Judy’s father’s farm. The capper – literally – is a rotating John Deere tractor above, in the cupola, 45 feet off the ground. This third floor is also the game room, with foosball, ping-pong and billiards; the billiards table is lit with a light crafted from a John Deere tractor hood. Groups can indulge in the games if they wish. Other displays include pedal cars, a bumper car – “from when we’d go to the fair and ride the bumper cars,” Bocker recalls – and a tribute to the local Lions Club, of which the 72-year-old Bocker is a staunch member.
A grain elevator in the middle of the building is actually an elevator to the upper floors, and the building is handicapped accessible. The large parking lot can easily accommodate motorcoaches. Located at 2570 NW Branch Road, Polo, Illinois, Barnacopia charges $10 per person for a tour, which includes the free ice cream cone. For more information, visit online at barnacopia.com or phone (815) 946-2500.
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Barnacopia Agriculture Museum