Reliving 300 years of history on the farm

Area students take a field trip to the Living History Farms in Urbandale.

It's the only place in Iowa where you can experience three centuries of life on the farm.

Living History Farms is an interactive outdoor museum for children and adults alike, just 20 minutes west of Des Moines in Urbandale, Iowa.

Your journey begins with the sounds of hogs and horses, a woman churning butter in a nearby home and a fire crackling in a wood-burning oven. It's the sound of the pioneer days in the Midwest.

"Kids and adults are ever becoming removed from the farm and their sources of food. We see it every day. Kids are amazed by a cow, a pig or a chicken," Erin Siebers, with the Living History Farms said.

Visitors travel at their own pace through the Living History Farms, made up of five historical time periods spanning 300 years. The farming techniques stay true to their time periods.

On the "1700 Ioway Indian Farm" you find people planting corn and beans, "just like the indians would have done," Jennie Deerr said.

But step into the 1850s and you'll see oxen taking on the load. Horses take over in the 1900s. The farm spotlights percheron draft horses who do the work.

This experience originated back in 1970 with Dr. William Murray.

"Dr. Murray was a professor at Iowa State University. He had a vision. He wanted the museum to showcase agricultural history, but he didn't want people to walk through there and see things behind glass, like a typical museum," Deerr said.

On-site interpreters provide a unique learning environment with hands on activities at the Blacksmith, General Store and Print Shop, some of which have landed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This site is no stranger to historical figures, either.

"In 1979, we actually hosted Pope John Paul II here at Living History Farms and a crowd of more than 300,000 people and that was quite an event," Deerr said.

Even then, the Pope gave a timeless message of staying true to your roots and challenging land stewardship. You can watch a video of his visit, created by the National Catholic Rural Life Conference here .

"To me, it's about people understanding where their food comes from and having a connection to their agricultural heritage," Siebers said.

You can make that connection on the Living History Farms anytime between May 1 and Aug. 18 . Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. You can visit the farms once again from Aug. 21 to Oct. 13. It's closed Mondays and Tuesdays during this time, but open Wednesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. You're asked to arrive by 2 p.m. to tour the entire museum. Admission sales to Living History Farms ends at 3:30 p.m. each day. Staff say it usually takes about 3 to 4 hours to experience the whole farm.