Farm Progress

Don Tourte, Penton Agriculture vice president, looks back on 175 years of agricultural publishing history that all started with Prairie Farmer.

November 8, 2016

4 Min Read

What a milestone — American’s oldest farm publication celebrating its 175th birthday! Not only is it the oldest farm publication, but it also holds the distinction of being the nation’s oldest, continuously published magazine (and that is all magazines, not just those serving agriculture — an impressive statistic). We are proud of this milestone and the opportunity to serve readers past and present and to move Illinois agriculture forward.


As I sit here in my office in the western suburbs of Chicago, the city where Prairie Farmer began in 1841, I see a couple of pictures on my wall which remind me of the rich history that is part of all of us who have worked for this venerable brand. One picture is of Abraham Lincoln, a Prairie Farmer subscriber. We’re proud to influence opinion leaders in agriculture where people like President Lincoln not only read and learn about agriculture from Prairie Farmer, but also take that information to help shape the future of agriculture here in Illinois and throughout the United States.

Some of Lincoln's key legislation includes signing a bill in May of 1862 that created the United States Department of Agriculture; he called it “the people’s department, in which they feel more directly concerned than any other.” He then signed the Homestead Act five days later. On July 1, 1862, he signed the Pacific Railway Act, and the next day, he approved the Morrill Act that offered each state 30,000 acres of federal land to be used to establish 106 land-grant colleges across the country. He was involved with key agricultural legislation, and we’re certain that Prairie Farmer helped shape his ideals and the ultimate legislation.


Coming together

The other is a photo and is my favorite; it is captioned “Prairie Farmer 1938 Corn Husking Contest — Attendance 85,000.” It shows a sea of people as far as you can see, all wearing their Sunday best — men in suit coats and hats and women wearing dresses — at the event to watch a cornhusking contest. What strikes me is it would have been impossible for all of them to see what was going on; but a key part of our great agricultural community is people coming together —and Prairie Farmer has been a great facilitator of this as well through the years.

These cornhusking contests were the precursor of one of my favorite parts of the Prairie Farmer family, and that is the Farm Progress Show. The show began here in 1953 near Armstrong, at the Earl Bass farm. Today the Farm Progress Show enjoys a long and rich history, welcoming visitors from almost every state in the union and more than 50 countries, and it's where exhibitors introduce the latest and greatest in ag technology! All part of the Prairie Farmer heritage!

Another favorite part of the family is the Master Farmer program, which honors Illinois' best agricultural producer-leaders. I attend the Master Farmer events to honor them and see the pride these farmers and their families have in their work, and to learn about the great ideas and leadership that each of them shares with others. Just like Prairie Farmer, they move Illinois agriculture forward through their leadership. At these celebrations, I also see the pride our staff takes in the roles they play and the gratification they receive from bringing these groups together and influencing Illinois agriculture each and every day.

There have been many additional chapters in Prairie Farmer's history. Today, many more leading farm publications, additional information resources and events are part of its family, which has grown to become the largest, most diversified agriculture information business in North America, Penton Agriculture. We connect to more than 2 million U.S. farm and ranch decision-makers and influencers representing the top 85% of the nation’s annual agricultural gross domestic product. It all began here in Illinois, 175 years ago, with Prairie Farmer.

I’m proud to be a part of this great history and, like President Lincoln, all of us here at Prairie Farmer “remain more directly concerned” with agriculture and serving the informational needs of Illinois producers. All of us look forward to doing our part today to continue this rich legacy to empower more growth for the next 175 years. Happy birthday, Prairie Famer!

Tourte is vice president and market leader at Penton Agriculture, the parent organization for Prairie Farmer.

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