February 23, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

From its humble beginnings in a small Lexington tobacco warehouse in 1963, the National Farm Machinery Show has grown into a giant exhibition of the latest, most innovative and high-tech agricultural equipment in the nation.

In the late 1950s, Blaine Parker, who was department head for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's agricultural engineering department at the time, was interested in continuing the department's cooperation with electric cooperatives. They wanted to educate farmers and students alike about electricity on the farm.

Around 1963, UK and the electric coops sponsored an electricity demonstration and exhibit for farmers at warehouse in west Lexington. The next year, the small show was moved to western Kentucky to reach a different audience.

Parker said by 1965 the show was moved to the Louisville fairgrounds and it began to grow and include more than electricity. UK and the electric cooperatives formed a committee with the Fair Board to organize future exhibits.

"When they (the committee) saw what it all looked like, we wanted to expand it into a larger farm show to include all agricultural areas," Parker said. "I told them if they wanted to attract farm people from outside Kentucky, we ought to call it the National Farm Machinery Show."

So in 1966, the show was officially named and has not changed since. Allis Chalmers was the first major agricultural machinery exhibitor. Parker said the focus of the farm show has not changed in the 35 years of it's existence.

"The sole purpose of the show is and always was to provide an education to farmers," he added.

Today, the National Farm Machinery Show boasts more than 800 exhibitors from all over the United States in the largest indoor farm show in America. The occupy one-million square feet of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.

Visitors can browse through exhibits for virtually every major line of farm equipment, seeds, chemicals, livestock supplies, and more. The UK biosystems and agricultural engineering department still plays a role in the show. They set up beside all the manufacturers and showcase their programs, research and student projects. Each year, visitors to UK's exhibit see new technology and have the opportunity to talk to faculty and staff from the UK College of Agriculture.

"It gives us exposure to the general public and allows students to take a look at what we are involved in and a chance to recruit those students to the College of Agriculture," Carl King, shop supervisor for UK's biosystems and agricultural engineering department. "We're trying to show the public what we're doing for agriculture in Kentucky.

This year, the UK booth had a large student component with the student project display. Each year, ag engineering students design and build a project for a national competition sponsored by the American Society for Agricultural Engineers. Students from all over the country design and build a quarter-scale pulling tractor and bring it to the contest in Illinois.

"It allows students to see their design and analyze it in terms of engineering components, the economy, the manufacturer and the efficiency of the materials used to construct the project," Scott Shearer, UK agricultural engineer, said. "Then they get to go into the shop and actually fabricate the tractor. They were able to get in there and get their hands dirty to see what it takes to manufacture their project."

The national competition includes a written and oral component as well as a tractor pull to actually put the tractor to work, all judged by professional engineers.

King and Shearer agree that by displaying the student project they are able to draw interest from potential students and also educate the general public about the programs going on at UK.

"Down through the years, the show has really been a boon for the College of Agriculture," Associate Dean for Administration in the UK College of Agriculture, Linus Walton, said.


Scott Shearer 606-257-3000, ext. 218