|The McCormick family farm continues to serve as a place for agricultural researchX|
Between Raphine and Steele’s Tavern, on the Rockbridge-Augusta county line, sits the gently rolling, lush farmland still called the McCormick Farm. Here, some 180 years ago, Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884) demonstrated a mechanical horse-drawn grain reaper that would revolutionize American farming, and thus, American life. Many farmers had worked on crude models earlier, but it was Robert McCormick and his son Cyrus who perfected the machine. And it was Cyrus McCormick who had the ambition to travel all of the eastern United States showing its efficiency and selling his reaper to farmers.
Eventually, McCormick and his brothers moved to Chicago and established their farm-machinery company, which would later become International Harvester. Today, the farm near Raphine in Rockbridge County is divided between a museum, representing the material culture of the original place, and the Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC), a livestock experiment station for Virginia Tech. Elizabeth Steitz visited the farm and center one day in May when it was virtually deserted. She interviewed superintendent David Fisk and took pictures for this photographic essay.