You never know when ‘doing your job’ might affect someone deeply.
But that’s what happened when former Purdue University ag economist and land owner Howard Doster opened the Jan. 9 edition of No-Till Farmer E-Tip and saw Kentucky no-tiller John Young and his son, Alexander, were going to speak during the first session at the 21st annual National No-Tillage Conference.
It was 12:15 p.m. at his home in southwestern Ohio. Doster put on a jacket, jumped in the car and took off for Indianapolis, a 135-mile drive.
“Thirty seconds later, my wife called me and insisted I return and pick her up so she could drive. I had slept only 3 hours Tuesday night,” Howard told me in an e-mail. “Barbara dropped me off at the hotel door in Indy. I ran to the head of the registration line and hugged Alice (Musser, our conference manager) as she pointed me toward the first session.
“I found a seat in the front of the room, just as John and Al came to the stage. I shook their hands, and I really enjoyed their presentations.”
Why the urgency? John Young was Doster’s graduate student at Purdue. They hadn’t seen each other in 40 years.
Doster says he first met John Young’s father, Harry Jr. — credited 51 year ago as the first production farmer to no-till — in 1971 at the Executive Inn in Evansville, Ind. Young told Doster that if it didn’t rain, his crew would finish combining double-crop soybeans that day.
“As I filled out a Purdue form, I realized he was growing 1,750 acres of crops on 1,300 acres of land. Compared to my central-Indiana machinery sets, Harry had enough machinery to farm only 600 acres.
“I featured Harry in a made-for-TV movie I was helping Allis Chalmers create. Millions of persons around the world saw it.”
Getting back to this year’s conference, Doster had dinner with the Young family that night. He also had a brief chat with No-Till Farmer editor Frank Lessiter. Doster admitted that he told Lessiter many years ago that he wouldn’t be successful having a conference like this. Nevertheless, Doster has been a presenter at the NNTC a few times, including the very first one.
Ironically, on the day a teacher and student were reunited, the NNTC was on its way to setting an all-time attendance record with 1,153 attendees — nearly half of them first-timers.
This really isn’t about who’s wrong or right. This is about family, and even though this year’s NNTC was only my third, it’s clear to me that no-tillers who come are family.
Many farmers who grace our presence each year are trailblazers who toiled through the early years when no-tillers were derided by neighbors. We’re also seeing new faces that will carry the flag of the no-till movement going forward.
As we overcome old challenges and take on new ones, it’s always fun to be a part of history.