Publisher's Post - August 2023

historic bridge
The nearby Indian Creek Nature Center has plans to repurpose the old bridge as a unique feature on one of its prairie paths, giving visitors an opportunity to appreciate the skills of the ironworkers from 1875.
Summer with Joe
publisher's post

This issue is our annual roundup of Horse Progress Days. Rather than use one-quarter of the issue to showcase some of the equipment being demonstrated at the event, we've decided to put half in this issue and put the rest in the next one. So, we have forecarts, spreaders, plows, cultimulchers and other tillage equipment here, and we'll finish up with the rest in the December 2023/January 2024 issue.

I worked at a weekly newspaper years ago that ran a photo of an older man and his grandson on an antique tractor going down the driveway. The man was driving, and the boy was sitting on the fender. It was a nice photo. I think most people liked it. But a few wrote and phoned in to say by printing it, we appeared to sanction dangerous or negligent behavior. They said “it wouldn't take much for the kid to tumble from the tractor fender and be badly hurt.” And, of course, they were right. I've not forgotten that. Publishers owe it to their readers to carefully curate what they print.

If we'd run the photo and wrote about the inherent risks of children riding on tractor fenders, we'd perhaps have done a public service. Of course, then we’d probably have gotten a letter or two from folks decrying the excessive caution and wondering where it will all end. “Just let kids be kids,” they might say.

You can't satisfy everyone and, if you try, you'll probably end up pleasing no one. So we try to be judicious when we run photos in our books, calendars and magazine, but reallize there we'll get some pushback now and then. Usually it starts with something on the order of “I really like the magazine and have been a longtime subscriber, but ...” And that's okay.

Because they are from our readers, viewers and customers, these letters, phone calls or emails are almost always well-intentioned and offer points worth considering.

All that changes when we post something on social media like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok or Instagram. Perhaps it is because commenting on posts is so easy to do, and perhaps it is because our audience on those platforms is bigger, broader and includes folks less familiar with draft animal farming than our regular customers, but I continue to be amazed at the caustic comments folks make to our posts.

Of course,it is easy to focus on the negative responses and forget they are dramatically outnumbered by positive remarks. I generally don't engage with those followers, leaving it to others to set them straight. And, when the posts are particularly evil-intentioned, I'll block the user from our page or channel.

One of the more common but hard for me to understand comments goes something like this: “Why doesn't she/he just use a tractor?” The obvious answer is “because they would rather work their draft animals.” Most of the time the poser of this question is not interested in the answer. They are, instead, making some kind of point. I'm often not sure what that point is, or what is their motivation for making it. This comes up most often when there is an example of mixed power such as a powercart being used to furnish PTO power to a haybaler, for example, or a skidsteer being used to load a horse drawn manure spreader. It's as if they feel the teamster is being disingenous by using an engine in conjunction with their horses. “What's the point?” is a common response. Nevermind that mixed power systems are part of the solution for that particular farmer who wishes to use his or her horses as much as possible but must comply with the realities of his or her situation. Maybe he doesn't have enough help or time to load the spreader by hand. Or maybe round bales are the only way she can harvest hay for her operation.

Do they think because someone uses horses to do some of the work, they should do everything at their farm as if they were a living history museum, reenacting life on a nineteenth century farm?

It rained here last night. After so many weeks of dry, hot weather, it was nice to hear the rain. We're still way behind — as are most of you out there — but grateful for whatever we get whenever we get it.

I didn't put in a vegetable garden again this year so didn't spend a lot of time worrying about conditions at our place, other than a brief moment worrying about whether our well had run dry when we suddenly had no water in the house. Thankfully, it was only a bad well pump and pressure tank.

Our home is the original house of a farm that once took up a lot of the land around us. Over the years the farmland was divided up into smaller lots and homes built on them. Each of those homes drilled their own, deeper wells, and we are perpetually worried that ours will eventually run dry. So I was glad that when we replaced the pump there appeared to be a lot of water 40-feet down.


Most events I attended this past summer were impacted by the terrible heat. When there would have been plowing, haying or other demonstrations using horses throughout the day, folks took their teams out for only brief shifts. Thankfully, the temperatures and humidity fell in time for demonstrations at the Midwest Old Threshers' Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and at the Farming of Yesteryear weekend in Keister, Minn. We'll have photos in the next issue from those events and episodes in November.

I am about to head to Oregon to film the Pendleton Roundup Parade, then Susan and I head off to North Carolina for the Suffolk Gathering, Maine to film horse drawn tours of Acadia National Park and finally, Vermont for the Draft Animal-Power Field Days.

In October, I'll be visitng West Virginia for the American Brabant Rendezvous, Linden, Tenn., for the Cedar Creek Plow Day, Newbern, Tenn., for their Harvest Day event and Thurmond, N.C., for the Cinder Ridge Farm Harvest Festival.

Contact Joe
As always, if you know of a person, farm, company or event you think we should be covering, either in the magazine or on the television program, let us know. If it is something you, a reader, is interested in, it would probably interest others as well. Shoot me an email at or give me a ring. 319-362-3027.

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