Farm Progress

College Farmer: Stumbling on old issues of Missouri Ruralist sparks a history lesson.

June 13, 2017

4 Min Read
LASTING TRADITION: Though the column art may change, Missouri Ruralist's College Farmer column is a long-standing tradition, as seen here on the magazine page back in the 1970s.

By Laura Bardot

It is often said that everything old is new again. I found this to be true when I looked at a set of Missouri Ruralist magazines from 1972-74.

Like the generations in my family before me, I am an agriculturalist, and an advocate for farming and ranching. If I return to the family farm, I will be a sixth-generation farmer. I feel proud when I say I come from a farming background. I felt that same pride when I found the dusty old Missouri Ruralist magazines in my great-grandfather’s house. I was ecstatic to see these past issues and practically took a step back in time.


TELLING IT LIKE IT IS: Missouri Ruralist has had few editors since it began in 1902. Cordell Tindall became editor in 1938. He stayed with the publication group until his retirement in 1979.

While thumbing through the first issue I found from January 1972, I saw Cordell Tindall was the editor. I recognized the name from several different publications and a scholarship I received in his honor. I looked down the line of associate editors, managers and writers, but there was one title that stuck out more than the rest — College Farmer. I then realized that I am a part of a great line of writers for Missouri Ruralist.

It was astonishing to read the thoughts from the writers back in those days that gave a report of what was happening on the University of Missouri’s campus: From reading about how MU was operating to learning how teenagers were considering careers in agribusiness instead of returning to the family farm, the topics were not too different from today’s writing.


CUTTING EDGE: Missouri Ruralist provided farmers stories on leading-edge technology, like this article on computer-aided fertility management for crops.

Soil analysis 45 years ago
Of course, farming and ranching back then were nothing like the technology-saturated industry we have today. However, one of my favorite articles from the aged publications is one about “Four-year fertility planting for specific crops now possible with computer analysis.” The article, from a 1972 periodical, spoke about a new statewide, computerized soil testing service from the University of Missouri. I can imagine it was a big deal for crop and livestock producers to receive a detailed analysis that was “run through the computer,” which was a new term back then.


WHO'S WHO: Missouri Ruralist employed a number of editors over the years. Associate Editor Larry Harper became the editor of the publication, and College Farmer Frank Holdmeyer went on to become executive editor of Farm Progress Midwest Group, which included Missouri Ruralist. He has since retired.

When I was reading the article written by Larry Harper, I saw that a test plot was planted at Sanborn Field, right in the heart of my university’s campus. Stepping back in time and reading about the technology advancements some 45 years ago was really interesting. I cannot image the farmers' excitement over computer-generated soil tests.

Just as there is a long line of farmers in my family, just like there is a long line of College Farmers in the history of Missouri Ruralist, I want people to look back at their family’s history just as I have looked back on mine by finding old copies of this publication. We cannot forget where we come from, because we have to have that foundation in order to know where we are going in the future.

Whether you have been farming for 30 years or if you just graduated college, take time to reflect on the everyday life we have now. In 15 or 20 years, it will be very different.

From the way great-grandpa did it to how I will farm one day, one thing will remain the same: the pride and joy that takes place every time a harvest is finished, or when a new calf is on the ground. Let us not forget that history is bound to repeat itself once or twice.

Bardot is a University of Missouri science and agricultural journalism student. Email her at [email protected].


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