The idea for a Manatee County Agricultural Museum first surfaced in 1979 as part of a planned expansion of the Manatee County Extension Service facilities at the Fairgrounds on 17th Street in Palmetto, Florida. The idea was to construct a two-story building with a museum on the lower level and the new Extension Service office above. Due to the possible move of the Manatee County Fair from the 17th Street site, this plan was deferred to a later date.
In 1985, the Palmetto Historical Commission initiated a historical survey made possible by a state grant. The survey identified and documented the important role agriculture has played in developing this area. In 1987 the Commission gave leadership to the establishment of the Manatee County Agricultural Museum Association. Two years later the Museum became a not-for-profit corporation with their own volunteer Board of Directors. The group reviewed options and possible museum sites, including the Chaires Building at the Agricultural Center/Fairgrounds, the Craig Sugar Mill site on Highway 301 North, and a few possible sites in downtown Palmetto. Lack of adequate resources was a major problem in following through on these sites.
A breakthrough came in 1995 when a city owned building, which was the site of the original firehouse/jail and public works building for Palmetto, became available. This is the site where the Museum currently stands. The Palmetto City Council was approached about developing the building into an Agricultural Museum. The council agreed and approved a 50-year lease with an option to renew for another 50 years. Building plans were developed and a fundraising plan adopted.
Included in the funds raised were a $250,000 state grant, a $75,000 grant from the Bradenton Kiwanis Club Foundation and $50,000 from the Dan McClure Family. Through the efforts and resources of many others, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, Inc. opened its doors to the public on March 9, 2002.
History of the Museum
Our mission is to preserve, share and educate the community about Manatee County's agricultural heritage and to support local agriculture today and into the future.