Great Iowa Tractor Ride

By Joseph L. Murphy, Iowa Soybean Association

The 23rd WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor ride had it all. First-time drivers, tractors of all shapes and sizes, and a 12 mile-per-hour rolling brigade of ag advocates led by America’s top farmer.

This year, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue rode a stretch of the tractor ride on his family’s restored 1968 International 656 Farmall. Perdue led a dream team of Iowa ag leaders including Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, and Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey.

The three-day ride rolled through cities large and small in western Iowa. Council Bluffs, Missouri Valley, Underwood, Oakland, Neola, and Treynor were several communities that the ride visited.

“These are great community events that feel almost like a family reunion,” Naig said. “We’ve had some struggles in agriculture this year, so for folks to have a chance to get together, enjoy the day and have some fun is a good thing.”

The WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor Ride began in Grinnell in 1996. The brings tractor enthusiasts together for fun, fellowship and celebration of Iowa’s rich agricultural heritage. The inaugural ride included approximately 90 participants and has grown to include more than 600 participants and countless fans. Last year, tractors from more than 33 states made the trip to Iowa, including tractor riders from California, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas.

“It means so much to our Iowa farmers and Tractor Ride participants to meet Secretary Perdue and have important conversations with him about agriculture in our state and its impact around the world,” said Bob Quinn, co-host of ‘The Big Show’ and farm director for 1040 WHO.

For the past 14 years, Dave Rogers, a native of Riverside, California, has made the trek to Iowa to participate in the ride.

“One year we were on our motorcycles near Saylorville Lake and we passed the ride. I thought to myself, I have to do this,” Rogers said as his tractor chugged and sputtered behind him. “I bought a couple of tractors and I’ve met some guys out here. You see guys once a year and you feel like they are your brothers. It is so much fun.”

This was the first year that Gov. Reynolds participated in the tractor ride. After a brief refresher course, Reynolds fired-up a John Deere 4050 owned by Norm Zahradnik and rambled down the road with hundreds of other tractors following. She chose a John Deere tractor as a nod to her father, who worked at the company for many years.

“It is amazing to see all of the vintage tractors here,” Reynolds said. “What a great opportunity to celebrate ag in the great state of Iowa.”

A rider waves while passing through a scenic area near the Hitchcock Nature Center in Honeycreek.

Dave Rogers fell in love with tractors after looking at an antique tractor calendar in his home state of California. He has participated in 14 of the 23 WHO Great Iowa Tractor rides.

Governor Reynolds smiles behind the wheel of a John Deere 4050.

Larry Maasdam polishes his 350 Farmall before starting the ride.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue drives his family’s restored 1968 International 656 Farmall during the first day of the ride.