STARTING BY HAND
This handy device, when strapped to your wrist, made harvesting corn by hand possible. And while farmers often held (and sometimes still do) contests to gauge speed of the fastest pickers, chances are there are no farmers looking at this picture who want to go back to those days. The small hook in the “palm” of the device enabled the user to better grab the ear to snap it off the stalk.
100 YEARS YOUNG
This is a Waterloo Boy kerosene tractor with a list price of a whopping $750. This purchase is what got John Deere on the road to growth as an ag powerhouse, but that road sure wasn’t simple. The technology available today has turned today’s modern high-horsepower tractors into more than machines that pull other machines — they also link electronically to attached implements and gather information around the farm.
A LITTLE DETAIL
It wasn’t long before this logo got replaced with a deer as John Deere rolled the Waterloo Boy tractor company into its corporate business.
This is another important tractor in history, though long gone. It’s the Fordson tractor from the 1920s. As farmers moved away from horses, many bought a Fordson. According to this display, in 1923, 75% of tractors purchased were Fordsons. Times have changed.
CHANGE IN LABOR
This is perhaps the one iconic ag invention that most city kids might still remember: the cotton gin, by Eli Whitney. This miniature helps show the ginning process, which changed the way cotton was processed and revolutionized farming in the South. It could be argued that the next big innovation in Southern cotton was the creation of the bale-making picker.
In this display, you can see the evolution of communication. Older readers might remember the early cellphone (that’s the monster on the lower right). This display shows a lot of changes that have happened to communication, from Palm Pilot devices to Blackberries to iPods. Of course today, most of these have been replaced by a single device: a smartphone.
PRECISION IN A CORNER
This is the precision farming exhibit in the American Enterprise area of the museum. It encapsulates the developments that have occurred in the way farmers work the land, gather information and make decisions. For the nonfarm consumer, it provides a concise look at what’s happening in the ag business.
WHERE PRECISION STARTED?
This is an early yield monitor from Ag Leader, the first company to offer this device that could measure what combines harvested on the go. This unit was not initially connected to GPS, so mapping wasn’t possible — but it wouldn’t be long before an Ag Leader monitor and a GPS receiver were mated. Ag Leader founder Al Myers teamed with Ted Macy, eventual founder of Mapshots, to link a yield monitor and a GPS antenna, and the rest is history.
John Deere’s first GPS receiver carried an interesting nickname when it came to market. The antenna has evolved — as have those made by other major players, including Trimble and Ag Leader. They are valuable tools for managing equipment in real time. Farmers are familiar with these “bulbs” and how they work, but many nonfarm consumers are barely aware of such tech used on the farm.
Of course, there is discussion of biotechnology in the exhibit and how that is boosting yields; there’s also some talk about opposition to the tech, but it’s balanced. This corporate ID, however, is familiar. Robb Fraley, involved in the development of Roundup Ready tech at Monsanto, announced recently that he’ll retire after the Bayer-Monsanto deal goes through.
ICONIC DESIGN DETAILS
In a small corner of the exhibit, the Oscar catches visitors’ eyes, and then the green tractor. They’re together for a reason. The shape of the Oscar, the UPS brown and that John Deere green are all trademarked by their owners. The Oscar was first shown in 1929; UPS painted its first truck brown in 1917, and those first John Deere tractors in 1918 featured that special green color.