Texas Grower Turns Passion for History Into a Treasure Trove for His Community
For Dan Taylor, collecting agriculture artifacts and mementos has always been a passion. The Ropesville, TX, farmer has always felt a sentimental connection to history – something that goes beyond standard nostalgia.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for preserving some of the past,” Taylor says. “Even when I was a little kid, I can remember hating to see an old church tore down, or things like that. It was always sentimental to me.”
Now, after a career spent in agriculture, Taylor has taken a step back from teaching, ginning and farming to focus on that passion for history.
He began collecting artifacts in the mid-80s – driving to neighbors’ farms to pick up the odd piece of out-of-date machinery. From those simple beginnings Taylor has amassed a mountain of historical agriculture artifacts – from diesel-powered gins to decades-old classing records. On his property near Ropesville, Taylor houses two large showrooms of museum-ready displays. And these are only what are left from the substantial donations he has made to the newly-named Bayer Museum of Agriculture in nearby Lubbock, where he serves as Chairman of the Board.
To tour Taylor’s showrooms on his property is to realize he missed his calling as a tour guide. His enthusiasm for the pieces on display is readily apparent. To spend years collecting such a massive amount of history is one thing – to have the enthusiasm of sharing with outsiders is quite another. Taylor says that comes from a life spent enjoying what agriculture has to offer.
“In my short years left, I hope I’m able to give something back,” says Taylor. “Agriculture has been very good to me.”
Finding His Calling
Growing up in the north-central Texas town of Blum, Taylor says he was dead set on avoiding agriculture as a career.
“People used to ask me what I was going to do for a living,” Taylor says. “My standard issue was that I don’t know, but I know what I won’t do. I won’t have anything to do with farming or anything to do with cotton.”
At the time, his idea of working on a cotton farm involved hand-weeding and hand-harvesting – backbreaking labor “in the hot sun of central Texas” that simply didn’t interest the young Taylor. But after one semester at an agricultural college, Taylor said he realized he had a future in agriculture. He transferred to Texas Tech University immediately.
After graduating in 1964, he set out to become a teacher, landing at a small high school just outside of the Lubbock city limits. He taught agriculture, and before long found himself farming a 10-acre plot as a hands-on tool for teaching his pupils.
“You would have thought that 10-acre plot was the biggest thing in the world,” Taylor says, laughing. “I was so proud of it.”
It was around this time that he married his wife, Linda, and the two both taught high school and raised three children from a small four-room house. Taylor says he is proud of the agricultural education program he was a part of as a teacher in those years. In fact, he’s carried the educational mission throughout the latter stages of his career.
“Texas still appreciates the agriculture program,” Taylor says. “I’ve been on the Texas FFA Foundation for 24 years, and we’ve gone from 85,000 members to 103,000 in a five year period. The urban growth of agriculture programs has been phenomenal in Texas. They’re recognizing the value.”
After 11 years as an educator, opportunity came knocking for the young Taylor family. Through his side-project of farming, Taylor had begun to develop contacts in the farming community around Lubbock. It didn’t take long for one of those contacts to see the potential in Taylor.
“I was very blessed. I loved teaching, and I had no plans to get out of it,” Taylor said. “But I loved farming, too, and we had a chance to buy into this gin that was just about to close – they had ginned 1,100 bales the last year. So I decided to try it.