Last summer, Pam and I took our three oldest grandchildren on a 3-day trip that centered around the use of the moldboard plow. Even though we certainly don’t encourage No-Till Farmer readers to use the moldboard plow, it played a key role in this family trip to look at farming history.
After touring former President Ronald Reagan’s home in Dixon, Ill., the next stop was at the blacksmith shop of John Deere in nearby Grand Detour, Ill. This is where Deere fashioned a polished plowshare that revolutionized agriculture by making it possible for farmers to quickly turn over the rich and sticky prairie soils that held so much potential for American agriculture.
Deere’s blacksmith shop eventually became a walking plow manufacturing facility where the machinery was powered by a horse walking on a treadmill. The abandoned shop that is now part of this National Historical Landmark was lost to history until 1962 when a team of University of Illinois archeologists unearthed its exact location.
More than 150 years ago, Deere moved his factory to Moline, Ill. where the Mississippi River could provide water power and transportation for shipping products. The next day of our trip was spent at the John Deere Commons, a historical site that opened 5 years ago and attracts nearly 300,000 visitors annually. Crammed with historical and modern-day tractors, combines, implements and other equipment, the historical site offers valuable information about the history of farming and older machinery and lets you…