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Week 10 Big Ten Power Poll: Farm Equipment

It’s harvest time! How well do you know agriculture?

LOOK OUT!!! B1G West means business!

We’re well into fall, and in B1G country, that means harvest time. While very few people actually participate in farming anymore, the nostalgic pull of the concept of the “family farm” is still one that resonates with many Americans. Further, while every state has its agricultural sector, I’m pretty sure if Family Feud asked 100 people where they think of when the think of farming, “the Midwest” would be the #1 answer.

That said, I don’t think too many people have really spend time thinking about farm equipment, and, especially, the connection between farm equipment and B1G institutions of higher education. We here at OTE are here to remedy that omission with the following. Please enjoy.


This is the most expensive tractor on the market (at least $600,000) and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Up to 628 horsepower means the ground game is reliable, but even with tracks instead of tires, you get a smooth ride that tops out at nearly 23 mph (which is pretty damn fast for a tractor). Additionally, just look at the Integrated Control Panel. Even if the QB operator isn’t fond of classes, he still should have no problem running this machine efficiently. (Though you probably do want somebody physically present in the cab, not trying to farm online) Hell, with a slightly modified paint job, this basically IS a scarlet and gray machine built to dominate the fall.


In response, every IH owner replies: “Or smells like a John.”

If OSU is going to be Case IH, then Michigan has to be John Deere. Case IH was formed by a merger involving International Harvester, which was created out of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company (created after Cyrus McCormick patented his horse-drawn reaper and moved to Chicago to go into big-time business). While that means the OSU of the farming world can claim plenty of pedigree, nothing is more insufferable than a John Deere owner. Even is Deere’s self-scouring plow wasn’t introduced until after McCormick’s reaper, if you’ve only heard of one of these two gentlemen, it’s certainly Deere. And just like Michigan has a pretty stupid helmet design that is nonetheless quite famous, if you know anything about farming, you can probably visualize the John Deere logo in your head. Finally, “nothing runs like a Deere” is trite enough to function as a substitute lyric to “the Victors.” Go ahead and start singing the song. “The plow the broke the plains” fits perfectly in place of “The champions of the West.”


Quick, what’s typically orange, quite rotund, and associated with the fall! Okay, besides Bret Bielema in a windbreaker. Pumpkins!!! And not only is Illinois the #1 pumpkin-producing state in the nation, they fucking dominate. You may not have even known there was a machine for harvesting pumpkins. So? Nobody knew Illinois was going to be any good this year, either. In retrospect, though, you have to admit that this is about as obvious as it gets. Watch the video. Like Illinois being good in football, it might seem quite strange at first. But it’s pretty transfixing, no? [And is you don’t think I’m giving enough credit to Illinois’ pulverizing defense, here’s a pumpkin seed harvester.]


We won’t specific a company here as we’re more concerned with qualities of combines generally. (Though if you want to learn about the how the Axial flow combine helped revitalize IH’s fortunes in the late 1970s, feel free.) Anyway, much like PSU, combines are really important pieces of machinery for farmers. They are also very expensive to purchase and repair. And, just like most recent PSU football seasons, before October is up many a farmer is cursing the fact that their combine—in all of its mechanical complexity—has broken down yet again.


There are self-propelled forage harvesters, but most American farmers have a chopper that hooks up to tractor. While a chopper is not exclusively used for corn, most farmers who have a chopper have it because they also have livestock and use the chopper to turn a small percentage of the overall corn crop into food for the herd of cattle. To do this, you don’t have to have a machine as complicated as a combine. Cattle will eat corn kernels, corn stalks, broken down corn cobs, etc. And that’s what the chopper does. It chops up corn into an energy-dense food for cattle. Why Maryland? Well, plenty of people will tell you that silage is one of the best smells you can encounter on a farm. It’s like fresh cut grass, but ramped up to 11, pretty much the Maryland flag of farm smells. More importantly though, you need to chop corn while there is still plenty of moisture in the corn plants. If you wait too long to chop silage, the quality will suffer. To get good silage you need to chop before a killing frost, which means that, like Maryland football, you’re likely to have your best luck in early September.


Not everybody can be Neil Armstrong, ya know?

Yeah, it’s a crop duster, but you know the engineering dweebs are going to use fancy terms. And you know this one plays. Historically, if any B1G school was going to take to the air, it was Purdue. And, just like Purdue, the crop duster can sometimes seem like a joke, but also sometimes seem menacing. As Wisconsin is mauling the Boilers for a 16th straight time, you think “dork on a biplane.” But every so often a Purdue Harboring occurs and then you’re put in the mood of Cary Grant diving for cover in North by Northwest. So, yeah, usually quaint, but sometimes serious. While most farmers handle their own spraying needs, Purdue will always be around ready to shake things up.


Pretty sure this hung on Henry Williams’ wall when Minnesota went 13-0 in 1904. Suck that Fielding Yost.

Oh, sure, while this could conceivably apply to multiple B1G schools, a little reflection shows that it has to be Minnesota. Yeah, “pull the plow” does sound stupider than “row the boat,” but not by that much. And anyway, when’s the last time the conference had a more productive plow horse than Mo Ibrahim? All the same, a plow horse is about the horse much more than the operator. Despite all the fanfare around P.J. Fleck, the same is really true of Minnesota football. Fleck’s record as Gophers head man? 39-26. Glen Mason’ record his last 65 games? 37-28. The last 65 games of the Kill/Claeys era? 39-26. That’s yeoman consistency right there. Finally, Gopher football’s most famous product is Bronko Nagurski, who, according to (apocryphal) legend, was spotted by a Minnesota coach when, after being asked directions, he lifted a plow and pointed. Ah, simpler times. But nobody plows anymore, and the golden age of the workhorse back is well in the past, just like Minnesota’s glory days.


First, let’s get clear on straw vs. hay. While straw can be food in a pinch, it’s typically bedding for livestock and is made from the stalks of cereal grain like oats or wheat. Hay is food and typically is made from grasses like alfalfa or clover. If you’ve ever worked on a flatbed wagon stacking bales, you know that hay bales are notably heavier. With this made clear, is should be obvious that the machine that prepares winter food for the cows in America’s Dairyland is right on target for the Badgers. Now while I already referenced “baling” as a manual labor job, one that earned many a farm kid some summer spending money when done for a neighboring farmer, the balers more appropriate for comparison her is the large baler. Some produce round bales, other produce square bales. Regardless, like so many Badgers on the OL, they weigh hundreds of pounds, and their production is a slow, methodical process like so many UW drives.


A little too on-the-nose? Yeah, maybe. But the first video I found when I searched youtube for “cherry harvester” is from the MSU Extension Office, which is obvious, but also works at a deeper level. The Extension Office is a core feature of land-grant (i.e., “ag”) schools, providing practical information to community members. Even farmers who denounce colleges as filled with out of touch elites tend to make use of the nearby extension office. And look at how that machine works. It basically grabs the trees and shakes it until the cherries fell off. Now, think of Mel Tucker’s contract with Sparty. Did he vigorously shake the MSU money tree until $95 million fell out? Or just get a great contract on the basis of a “cherry-picked” 11-2 campaign in 2021? Either way, this works on more levels than just the state’s cherry production alone.


Gravity wagons once were really handy. At the bottom, three sides are angled at the bottom and there’s a unloading door on the fourth side so you just turn the wheel on the unloading door and the wagon empties itself. Pretty cool huh? Except, now pretty much every farmer just has a semi or large dump truck-type setup that can hold a lot more grain, rendering a gravity wagon an anachronism. Additionally, if you use a gravity wagon, the tongue on the wagon hooks up to the tractor in such a way that when you’re backing up, you need to turn the wheel in the opposite direction than what you’d think. If, owing to small capacity of the gravity wagon, and the demands of harvest time, you’ve hooked up two wagons, well, it takes a lot of practice and skill to do any backing up. This is very much like how Iowa goes about winning football games. Because of the limited capacity of the offense, almost any Iowa victory is the product of a certain type of specific skill (pro tip: you are allowed turn the tractor around when just driving around the farm). But, as we’ve noted, semis exist, so gravity wagons are pretty pointless. Modern offenses exist, too.


You could write this one yourself, I bet. But allow me.

Once upon a time, the threshing machine (i.e., the wishbone) revolutionized harvesting (college football). No longer did threshing (rushing) have to be done by hand with pitchforks (by just running the ball straight into the line). And nobody had a grander, more impressive threshing machine (rushing attack) than Nebraska. But today, well, combines (passing the ball) have rendered threshing machines (the wishbone) nothing but a historical curiosity.

The historic importance of the threshing machine is such that a google search will turn up annual threshing events in every midwestern state out there. And in every town in Nebraska, I’m sure there’s somebody willing to chew your ear off about Jerry Tagge or Tommie Frazier. In terms of productivity in today’s agriculture (college football), historical curiosities have to be left behind.


Okay, wait. Nobody uses a hoe anymore. Clearly you’re not actually a farmer. You’re what? A gardener? Ah, yes, this is a hobby for you. I see. And basically just killing time until the beginning of basketball season? Checks out.

But why is the hoe broken? You got angry? Because the gardening association changed the rules? And you didn’t win the pumpkin competition a couple of years ago? Did you have the heaviest pumpkin? No? But you had the highest average weight? And that used to be the rule? Okay. But then the rule got changed? And the gardener that won the event won despite not even entering a full slate of pumpkins? Yeah, that sounds shady.

But they would’ve have won anyway, even if they simply bought two tiny pumpkins to get to the minimum? And you got so upset that you’re walking around with duct tape coving the name of the gardening group? Okay. Hope basketball season goes well for you.


Yes, a machine that takes animal shit and spreads it on crop land as fertilizer. Too easy? I don’t care. The product that Rutgers has put on the football field since joining the B1G has often been pretty shitty.

But, yeah, when you think about it, Rutgers has helped grow the win total of many an opponent, helping their record flower as they hope to blossom into bowl eligibility by the end of growing season.


In 1876, the Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for Illinois to set maximum rates that private grain elevator operators could charge for storing grain. Illinois passed the maximum rate law largely owing to the lobbying efforts of the Grange movement, the closest thing farmers ever had to a labor union. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Morrison Waite distinguished between fully private businesses and those that are “clothed with a public interest.” The latter businesses are subject to government regulations for the public good in a way that the former are not.

Less than 20 years later, following some personnel changes on the Court decided that the consolidation of sugar refining, spoweruch that one company would control 98% of sugar refining nationwide, was not an appropriate area of regulation under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act because the refining of sugar only “incidentally and indirectly” affects markets prices of sugar that finds its way into interstate commerce.

There’s no Grange movement any more and I would wager a lot of money that most farmers share Pat Fitzgerald’s view of labor unions.

Besides, manure spreader was taken.