NATIONAL PLOWING CONTESTS


| January/February 1961



623 Columbia Drive, Marietta, Georgia

I am submitting a bit of factual matter concerning the great plowing contests. Incidentally, the caption for RobertE. Lee's little Russell and the wood train in the last edition should properly have been accredited to his granddaughter, Mrs. Annie Lee Day, who furnished the picture and a bit of story. I just sent in the picture and found you a new subscriber, is all. And it was a mighty fine job you did at reproducing the picture. Well, here goes . . .

These contests do not appear to have received much attention through the pages of our traction engine hobby magazines. Yet, while they are held once each year in some selected part of the United States, they do offer an excellent opportunity to combine with a good steam threshing showoff, since very large crowds of people from all over North America and some foreign countries attend. Actually, these contests are more than simple plowing events, for they reveal the results of studies by the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture and many other agencies in an effort to combat soil erosion and loss of fertility because of non-rotation of crops, non-replenishment of various soil elements through rest, cover crops, etc.

'Plowtown, U.S.A.' stems from its beginning in a regional contest first held in 1939 by Herb Plambeck, farm service director of radio station WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. The sequence was interrupted by World War II but was resumed when it became linked with national soil conservation conferences in 1946. The event is now staged under the auspices of the National Association of Soil Conservation Districts, representing 2900 conservation districts throughout the United States, with headquarters in Washington, D. C.

Each year, in advance of course, NASCD sets the rules and selects the site for the coming event. This is done from the standpoint of area improvement, agricultural potentiality, national need, etc. The 1960 event was staged at the 540-acre farm of Mr. Burton Ode, near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This section of the country was near the upper stem of the 'Dust Bowl' of the 30's and well do I remember the havoc wrought upon the dried-out farm lands that were blown out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean each summer, while the grasshopper pestilence got down to eating paint off houses and finally cannibalism after they had stripped every green and grey thing in that part of the country. The pestilence was so bad, with even trees suffering, that many farmers were compelled to construct a crawling entrance into but one door of their homes. These were made of gunny sacks over steel arches and resembled the entrance of an eskimo igloo. When I left those parts in 1933, after dust had drifted completely over fences and farm buildings like big snow storms, I never expected to see nor hear of a green thing growing again in what had once been the bread basket of the United States, the Red River Valley. However, through governmental aid dams were constructed, windbreak trees were planted and watered, and a great program of soil conservation study was put under way. The monument to the success of this program stands in the great recovery made and the bumper crops now again reported.

So the spectacular event has grown in size from that which numbered only a few hundred in attendance at first, to the record crowd of over 160,000 during the show-time of Sept. 21 to 23 inclusive. But it is indicated that over two years went into the planning of this single event. After selection of the site, sponsors were sought for the various phases of the works. One of these was the farm radio broadcasting station WNAX at nearby Yankton, which was assisted by the Sioux Palls Chamber of commerce and the South Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts. Many machinery firms spent approximately $250,000 setting up exhibits worth over five million dollars. To be counted with these was Republic Steel, which gave away 5 tons of farm-help brochures and 16,000 wire splicers for a total of about $17,000; I-H utilized 20 men for nine days to set up tents and exhibits on over a dozen lots in the 100-acre display, and before one of its grandstands which had a seating capacity of 1800 it conducted five shows daily, the finale of which consisted of eight baby crawlers doing a square dance backed by a country music band. This part of the show was narrated by Jim Hill, MC from WCCO in Minneapolis. Ford Motor also spent approximately $15,000 on 12 out of 122 lots in the exhibits. Each lot was 40 ft. by 100 ft. and rented for $180. In addition, there were numerous smaller lots for little exhibits, and also 25 machine demonstration lots each 60 ft. by 500ft., which rented for $360. A total of 82 exhibits was signed.