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Agriculture on parade

Randolph, Minn., FFA Chapter uses its annual tractor parade to showcase agriculture and to kick off the spring planting season.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

April 21, 2023

9 Slides

Agriculture was on full display on a brisk April morning in Randolph, Minn., as a kickoff to the spring planting season.

Since 2004, the Randolph High School FFA Chapter in Dakota County has hosted an annual tractor parade as a way to showcase agriculture to the local community.

Streets were lined with spectators braving sunny — but windy — 27-degree-F weather April 6 to see the lineup of 155 units, mostly tractors, but also spreaders and sprayers. The annual parade was led by five vehicles from the Randolph Fire Department and Rescue squads.

“The amount of community members that come out and watch is astounding to me,” says Jessie Bester, first year co-ag teacher. “They just line up along the roads … it was really cool. We shut down Randolph.”

Bester had a good view of the parade route as she drove her dad’s John Deere 6155R. Bester’s father and brother — Al and Matt, respectively — each drove a unit in the parade, just as she and Matt did throughout their high school years. The Bester family farms in the Hampton, Minn., area.

Sara Wagner, also a first-year co-ag teacher at Randolph, says the parade was born out of an ag mechanics class taught by Ed Terry, longtime ag teacher and FFA instructor at Randolph High School. Terry retired in 2022 after more than 40 years at Randolph.

Replacing such a Minnesota FFA legend as Ed Terry, Wagner and Bester never questioned if the parade tradition would continue.

“We still have the ag mechanics class, in which we’re still teaching the kids about the tractors,” Wagner says. “It’s very much an educational aspect, and our community does so much to help us. Our community helps us to raise money so that we can send our kids to any event they want to go to. This is just kind of a great way for us to give back to the community.”

The community doesn’t just show up only to watch, it also participates — as more than half of the 155 rigs in the parade are driven by farmers from the community and beyond.

“We have a lot of alumni that come back,” Wagner says. “For a lot of families, this is kind of a family tradition.”

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

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