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Aerial view of field demonstrations at the Farm Progress Show
CREW: A veteran crew works behind the scenes to carry out daily field demonstrations at the Decatur, Ill., Farm Progress Show.

Meet the people who make FPS field demos possible

Ed Harris helps lead the crew tasked with ensuring field demonstrations run smoothly.

When everything goes right, which it normally does, you barely know they’re in the field. Yet without the crew that volunteers time to organize and carry out Farm Progress Show field demonstrations, you wouldn’t be able to watch combines in action shelling corn or tillage tools doing their work one after the other.

One of the veteran crew leaders, Ed Harris, says this could be his last show. He’s headed up field demonstrations since the Farm Progress Show first came to Decatur, Ill., in 2005. His co-leader is Mat Muirhead.

What questions would you want to ask Harris if you had a chance to sit down with him? Here are his answers to several common questions.

How did you get started doing this role? I’ve helped since the first Decatur Farm Progress Show in 2005. We had a relatively small, regional, farm input supply company, Van Horn Inc., at the time.

When news that the Farm Progress Show was coming to Decatur and would be returning every other year came along, we decided that the best way for a company like ours to participate was to play a role with the show itself, rather than have an exhibit. At that time, we operated only in central Illinois, and really didn’t see a benefit in the time and expense of having an exhibit.

So, you decided to work in the field instead? Yes. We felt our time was better spent in a supporting role like field demonstrations. Van Horn was recently purchased by Nutrien Ag Solutions, so our role going forward may change.

Courtesy of Ed HarrisEd Harris

DEMO MAN: Ed Harris has helped lead Farm Progress Show field demos since the show arrived in Decatur, Ill., in 2005.

Who helps you in this effort? Mat Muirhead co-chairs it with me. About half the crew which works with us each year comes from what was Van Horn, now Nutrient Ag Solutions. These guys primarily man the rope line for crowd control during the demonstrations.

The other half of our crew comes from the local Macon County Farm Bureau. Mat does a lot of the work in recruiting a crew of returning veterans each time. These guys have worked alongside us since the first time we were here at Decatur and have done a great job every time the show is here. They know what to do and have made it much easier since everyone has become familiar with what we need to do.

What is the most challenging part of your role? What’s the most rewarding? It’s become much easier now that we know what to expect. The most challenging and rewarding part is dealing with unforeseen problems that arise, but being able to resolve them and have a safe and successful show.

You get to work around all kinds of new equipment. Companies provide drivers for each combine and tractor. What kind of memories does that provide? Nearly all the operators are well-trained and great to work with in the field. We have encountered situations with apparently inexperienced operators, or else there was a language barrier, but it’s only occurred during tune-up prior to actual demonstrations. In one incident, there was no danger to spectators, just a pile of corn on the ground!

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