The year was 1974. I was a junior at Purdue University studying to become a vocational agriculture teacher. One of my classes was about farm power equipment. I couldn’t believe what I saw the first day we went to the lab. We were going to learn about small engines, welding and other skills we would be expected to teach to our students. But the facility and equipment provided for us looked like it came out of the 1940s. And I only knew that because pictures — I don’t quite go back that far!
To his credit, Alan Brown, a legend in his own right, made do with what he had. He didn’t need a fancy building to explain how a small gas engine worked, although he didn’t have a great exhaust system if he wanted to run it for us. Somehow we survived.
That same building is still there today. And it’s still the home of Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Another 43 years have gone by with little change to the facility, other than maintenance and some minor improvements.
Meanwhile, since 1974, farm equipment went from six rows to 24 rows. State-of-the-art technology evolved from a John Deere 4430 tractor to Deere’s 9R Series, tractors with autosteering, GPS guidance, built-in diagnostic sensors and much more. Ag engineers trained at Purdue played a role in many of these developments.
Computers that were affordable for farm families appeared in the 1980s. The internet came along in the 1990s; yield monitors also appeared about the same time.
Inside the Purdue ABE building, faculty and staff evolved with the times, leading the way on many fronts. Their prowess has earned them world-class rankings.
And for the past 40 years, Bill Field and company have put Purdue on the map as a leader in training others about farm safety, and in enabling those with disabilities to continue farming
Turn the clock forward
While all of this was happening, the view of the front of the ABE building changed very little. It’s like time stood still for the building, while technology progressed at breakneck speed on the inside, despite the facilities.
Purdue University’s board of trustees and Purdue administration have tapped new facilities for the Ag and Biological Engineering program as the university’s No. 1 capital improvement request to the Legislature for this budget session. We applaud their decision. It’s time for time to move forward on the outside of ABE as well as on the inside.
Purdue Agriculture Dean Jay Akridge recently said that a world-class program deserves world-class facilities. We couldn’t agree more.
The College of Agriculture has made a conscious effort to staff the department with world-class faculty, many of them with a similar drive and desire to succeed and exceed expectations that helped Field take farm safety to a whole new level. It’s time for Indiana to step up and match that drive and enthusiasm with funds needed to make a new building a reality.
Time has stood still on the exterior long enough. Technology is only going forward, never backward. Build it and they will come — a whole new generation of students and faculty who will take agriculture and food production into the next era. Purdue’s ABE needs a new home. The time is now!