Farm Progress

Prairie Farmer's 175th birthday bash goes on: What was it to farm here 175 years ago? Plus, what it takes to just pull it together, man.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

November 28, 2016

3 Min Read

I’ve often tried to imagine what the prairie was like when the first settlers came across the continent. When my ancestors left Lancaster, Pa., to settle Lancaster, Ill., what must the ground have looked like? What did the trees look like?

What did it take to clear a spot for a house, or to plow a field of prairie grass that had never been turned? What was it to spy a nice hilltop and lay out a

What was it to raise babies in a log cabin? When my kids were little and we were having a rough day, I used to remind myself: “Listen. Ma Ingalls did this on a dirt floor without a vibrating musical bouncy seat or an exersaucer. Pull it together, man. You’re gonna be fine.”


The same could be said for fixing a broken hydraulic hose on the four-wheel drive, or driving a combine through a muddy field. Our hardships are not the first.

As Jill Loehr, associate editor, and I have combed through old issues of Prairie Farmer for this special 175th anniversary edition, we carefully flipped through crackled pages, researching history going back to 1841. We read stories of fires and crop failures, of droughts and loss. Of death and war.

We discovered stories about pattern tiling from 1884, and read about the brand-new automobiles presented with thanks in 1948 to the breeders of the first hybrid corn. We read about county fairs that couldn’t get funding in 1933. We studied diagrams of proper corn root systems from 1876, and read reports of farm mortgage foreclosures halted in 1933. A fiery 1948 editorial asked, “We can raise good corn, but can we elect good men?” And from the same issue, this headline: “How can owners and tenants agree?”

It would seem our problems aren’t so new, even after all these years.

175 years of crops.
175 years of stories.
175 years of farmers.

Because that’s the thing: For 175 years, this magazine — the oldest in the entire country — has existed for farmers. “Farmers, write for your paper,” implored editor John S. Wright in 1841. Then as now, we talk to the industry, but we go straight to the farmer for the real scoop.

And so it is. After 175 years, our problems are not so new, and neither is our magazine’s mission: We are here for you. To help you build a better farm, a better farm environment, a better farm community and, perhaps most importantly, a better farm family.

We may not publish the Prairie Farmer creed anymore, but we still live it:

To serve God and country
To conserve our priceless soil
To protect the family farm
To support the agricultural community

We wake up every day here at Prairie Farmer looking for ways to be even more honest and even more truthful, and to do an even better job than we did yesterday. Just like you do.

I’d like to imagine John S. Wright did the same thing in 1841. Thank you for being loyal Prairie Farmers readers, and for following along all these years. 

Comments or memories to share? Email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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