The Hand County Farm & Home Show
For more than 60 years, the Hand County Crop Improvement Association (now Livestock & Crop Improvement Association) has been instrumental in promoting the county’s rural economy through the Hand County Farm & Home Show.
Long-time association member, Wallace Johnson, said “The Crop Improvement Association always kind of ran it, along with the city.”
The association has played an important role in county agriculture for many years.
The South Dakota Crop Improvement Association (SDCIA) was formed in 1925 through consolidation of the SD Corn Growers and Breeders Association, founded in 1906, the SD Grain Growers Association, organized in 1910, and the SD Experiment Association, established in 1912. The Association has headquarters in Brookings, where it is housed within the Plant Science Department in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at South Dakota State University (SDSU). It’s stated mission is, “To foster a more stable agriculture for the state of South Dakota.”
County Crop Improvement Associations are organized within the counties and elect their own directors and officers.
The state association serves as an effective voice of action in all aspects of producing and marketing agricultural crops, and promotes use of Certified seed in crop production. South Dakota Certified Seed is distributed though the county Crop Improvement Associations.
The Crop Improvement Association attracted a strong membership early on in Hand County.
A forerunner to today’s Farm & Home Show, the Hand County Crop Show, was held December 17, 1948, and was sponsored by the Hand County Crop Improvement Association, with support from the Miller Civic and Commerce.
The crop show was open to all farmers in Hand County, and especially to 4-H and FFA members. That first show had 84 different crop exhibits. First-prize winners received $3.00, and the show was declared successful.
In 1949, there were 143 grain exhibits. The show was held in the Farmers’ Room in the Hand County Courthouse, and Miller C&C provided coffee and doughnuts. The purpose of the show was, “to create a greater interest in adapted seed varieties and the planting of good quality seed, and to present worthwhile educational information.”
In that era, the Miller C&C used to sponsor a “Farmer’s Night.” In March 1949, so many farmers attended (some 1,000), that they ran out of food. “Farmer’s Night” was later changed to a “Town & Country Party.”
By January 1959, the Hand County Crop Show was sponsored not only by the Crop Improvement Association and the Miller C&C, but also by Hand County Extension Clubs, and exhibits expanded to include work by Extension club members.
By 1960, the one-day Hand County Crop Improvement show was held at the Miller Armory on February 15. A program for women was held on “Cake Cutups for Fun.”
The two-day Farm and City Show at the Armory in 1966 featured crop and home economics exhibits, and vendor booths were included. The Hand County Livestock Association had a calf in their booth, and visitors were invited to guess its weight.
By 1971, the Farm & Home Show event, staged at the Miller Armory, continued to expand, and included sewing and baked goods entries.
Over the years emphasis was placed not only on crops and homemaking, but also more vendors, entertainment, and education. Emphasis and offerings changed with the times.
The theme of the 1983 Farm & Home Show was Economics for Families, and featured 15 booths, with a wide selection of topics, from “Livestock Nutrition with High Moisture feeds” and “Twin-Row High-Density Windbreaks to “Alternative Heat Sources for the Home” and “Microcomputers and Family Farm Management.” The booths also included information on sewing and gardening, South Dakota foods, food storage safety, home economics research and 4-H.
Farmers continued to enter “grower” and “exhibitor” seed divisions in seeds, while women entered exhibits in breads, cookies, crafts and sewing. There was also a style show, featuring home-sewn clothing.
Oh, yes, more than 1,500 took advantage of the free pancake feed.
The home economics division had greatly expanded by 1992, with such categories as bread, cakes, cookies, candies, pies, crafts, quilting, needlework, etc.
By 1999, the Farm & Home Show had open-class crop and home economics divisions, and educational programs and health information continued to expand. The free meals were always popular; some 700 attended the C&C Appreciation Dinner.
Ten years ago, in 2003, private applicator training was offered, as well as a seminar on manure management, and information on wind energy. But the show also had LEGO car races and a Boy Scout cake baking contest, tea and entertainment, a hat and cap exhibit, music by MHS jazz band and vocal jazz. And of course…free feeds.
The “Farm & Home Show” may have grown by baby steps in its first few years, but at 65, the show continues to speak to the needs of the time, to provide information as well as entertainment, and to “foster a stable agriculture.”
The 2013 Farm & Home Show promises to continue to provide education, entertainment and a good winter break for everyone who attends. Mark the days on the calendar, and keep up the tradition.