Corn’s still corn, but planting not the same

Each summer, as another group of recent high school graduates is about to start college, a new list comes out from a group at Beloit College in Wisconsin. It’s called the Mindset List, and it deals with the time frame during which that class has grown up. Those who are closer to senior citizen than they are to senior class get a good chuckle out of how things have changed.

Some examples from among the 60 entries on this year’s list was the fact that during the incoming freshmen’s lifetime, gas stations never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino. Also, IBM has never made typewriters, the “Tonight Show” has always been hosted by Jay Leno, and caller ID has always been on phones.

It’s an odd connection, but the Mindset List came to my mind this week as I was working a booth out at Husker Harvest Days. In checking the program, I noticed this is the 34th year for the huge annual farm show held a few miles outside of Grand Island. Three days each September what was once an empty field packs in tens of thousands of people to check out the latest the ag industry has to offer.

Being 34 years old means the show was first held the year I graduated from college. I wondered to myself just how many of the hundreds of exhibitors at this year’s show are selling a product or technology that wasn’t even available when the first show was held in 1978 — you know, back when IBM was making typewriters and someone named Johnny hosted the “Tonight Show.” I held onto that thought as I made a really fast walk-around of maybe half of the grounds while on a work break.

Some of the basics remain the same. That’s why I wouldn’t count a planter that looked like it could plant more than 30 rows at a time. They might not have been as big, but at least there were planters at the first show. Of course, they can be bigger now since farmers now drive tractors bigger than their houses and combines bigger than the equipment sheds they used to house those tractors.

New though is the GPS technology in some of those machines that allows them to practically drive themselves. It used to be you knew the farmer with the steeliest eye and steadiest hands because he was the one with the straightest rows of corn in his field. Now it’s just the one with the best GPS-driven tractor.

Center pivot irrigation systems were there for the very first show, but now they bend at the end to hit the corners, have adjustable sprinkler heads to conserve water and can be turned on and off from home.

It seems like that might be where the new companies are coming from — that being the communication- and satellite-driven technology areas. If there is a “tele” or “micro” or “dyno” in the name, odds are they’re a newer business. Right across the aisle from the booth I was at was Irrometer. Near as I can tell it’s some new monitoring device to help with irrigation. And of course, the one that hit the closest to home was the booth I was working. We’re in the cellphone business, and in 1978 there wasn’t one to be found in all of Nebraska. Try telling a farmer now he has to give his up for the sake of the good old days.


For one company or another, I’ve probably worked at around 15 Husker Harvest Days, and I did see something this year I hadn’t before. Wednesday they shut the show down a couple hours early because high winds were threatening to make things a little dangerous.

Many of the attendees wondered what was the big deal, as they leaned at a 45-degree angle into the wind, holding onto the new, free seed corn hat they just got. They work in this kind of stuff all the time.

Of course, as soon as the closing announcement was made, it was as if Moses held up his arms — the winds calmed, giving way to a truly unusual event — it rained. Only in Nebraska.

Russ Batenhorst

Don't expect to detect a common topic or theme in Russ Batenhorst's weekly column in the Hastings Tribune. Usually it's whatever slice-of-life observation pops into his head just in time to make the deadline for it to appear each Friday.

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