Crowley Museum and Nature Center
If you want your students to experience the life of the early Florida pioneer, this program is for you. Learning experientially, students will make butter, grind coffee, learn to cook on a campfire, use old tyme tools, dip candles, go on a hayride to learn about farm animals, and take a tour of the kitchen garden. The museum at Crowley depicts the time between 1850-1920 and is laid out like an early Florida homestead.
The Crowley Farm contains a herd of certified Florida Cracker cows, cracker ponies, a mule, pigs, chickens, an organic vineyard, an orchard, a kitchen garden and more. The site contains a one-room Homesteader cabin typical of those built by pioneers when they first arrived to an unsettled area and contains furnishings and utensils that early pioneers would have used. Circa 1889-1892, the two-story Tatum House is the earliest example of Florida rural architecture in our area.
The kids will also see a sugar mill including a cane grinder and kettle for boiling syrup. They will learn how sugar cane was pressed in a mill and boiled in a kettle to create cane syrup and then dried to make crystalized sugar or cooked down further to molasses, which could then be used to make taffy. Students will see a working blacksmithing shop and a pioneer museum set up like a general store. The museum also exhibits a variety of historic objects, mostly from the Crowley family and the Old Miakka area.
Crowley, Jasper (William Jasper), 1900-1976, donated Crowley lands to the community in 1972. He was a teacher at the Old Miakka one-room Schoolhouse from 1933-1943. When Fruitville Elementary School opened up he became the first principal and the Old Miakka Schoolhouse was closed. Jasper believed he witnessed the birth of delinquency in children first hand. In the 1930s and 1940s, 'Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child' philosophy was widely practiced. Also, children worked on the farm and nearly all people lived on enough land to keep a garden and some chickens and chores needed to be completed before fishing could take place.
Jasper felt, as many pioneer families did, that if children worked in the garden it connected them to natural systems and taught them to be self-sufficient, which also gained them self-confidence. He also thought it was important that children understand where their food came from and also learning self-reliance skills were necessary tools for life. Jasper would bring young men to work the farm who had gotten into trouble or ran away from home. Oral histories from some of these young men are testament to the notion that bringing them to the farm and teaching them about wild plants and how to build shelters, purify water, and other survival skills helped them to know they could provide for themselves if necessary. This gave them self-confidence and many young men became productive citizens when the odds were against them.
Following the early mission of Crowley, we bring children to Crowley to understand natural systems and where their food comes from. We teach them about completely self-reliant early cultures and impart them with a desire to become more self-sufficient and more mindful of preserving natural resources.