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Bonnemann to present 'Got Electricity? How Power Changed Dairy Manufacturing'

1970s SDSU Dairy Plant
Howard Bonnemann, former manager of the SDSU Dairy Plant, presents “Got Electricity? How Power Changed Dairy Manufacturing,” a program at the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28. This photo from the SDSU Dairy Plant in the 1970s shows one example how electricity changed dairy manufacturing. (Photo courtesy of SDSU archives).

Howard Bonnemann, former manager of the SDSU Dairy Plant, presents “Got Electricity? How Power Changed Dairy Manufacturing,” a program at the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28. Refreshments and SDSU ice cream will be served at the free program.

Bonnemann, who managed the plant from 1997 to 2010 and now is a lecturer in the South Dakota State University Department of Dairy and Food Science, will explore how electricity revolutionized the dairy industry. Before the Rural Electrification Act brought electricity to much of South Dakota, dairy farmers and food manufacturers struggled to produce, store and deliver dairy products to consumers.

When the act passed in 1936, it changed the dairy industry in terms of food storage and manufacturing. Gone are the days of ice deliveries and milk men—electricity made both large scale and household food storage common in homes and businesses across South Dakota.

This program correlates with the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum’s newest exhibit, “Power to the People: Electrifying Rural South Dakota.” This exhibit explores how electricity changed life on the farm, especially for dairies and hatcheries. It integrates the history of how South Dakota farmers lived and worked before rural electric cooperatives provided electricity to rural communities. This exhibit also discusses how South Dakota electrical cooperatives generate electricity and the science behind it.

“Today, our society is very dependent on electricity, but imagine turning on the lights for the very first time. Many people in South Dakota can remember that day because a vast number of farms did not have access to electricity until the 1950s,” said Gwen McCausland, director of the Agricultural Heritage Museum.

“We hope visitors of all generations attending our programs and visiting the exhibit will walk away with a better understanding how much electricity not only brought new technology to the farm but improved rural families’ lives as well.”

This exhibit explains how farms used wind turbines to produce electricity and the history of rural electric cooperatives. The farmhouse kitchen is open for the public to explore a 1949 kitchen. It also shows how electric washing machines changed how we do laundry. This exhibit teaches the science of electricity with an interactive circuit board and a pedal powered light meter sponsored by Basin Electric, East River Cooperative, Sioux Valley Energy and H&D Cooperative.

This exhibit was sponsored in part by Coral Bonnemann, a longtime supporter of the Agricultural Heritage Museum; Basin Electric, East River Cooperative, Sioux Valley Energy and H&D Cooperative. This exhibit would not have been possible without the private collection of photographs and artifacts from South Dakota Rural Electric Association and William Lee of Colman.

“Power to the People: Electrifying Rural South Dakota” will be on display until autumn 2021.

About the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum
The museum’s mission is to inspire a passion for the diverse history, culture and science of agriculture in South Dakota. The official museum for preserving the history of agriculture and rural life of South Dakota, it is located in the historic Stock Judging Pavilion on the SDSU campus at 977 11th Street, Brookings, S.D., and is a department of South Dakota State University. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 605-688-6226 or visit www.agmuseum.com.

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