The bulk of agricultural implements used on the Plains in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl were made in Illinois-based manufactories. The Peoria-based firm Caterpillar even got free advertising in the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath, when the 1935 RD-8 roared through the Joad farm. This program will examine these Illinois perspectives on the Dust Bowl and others, including concern about dust pneumonia, and changing New Deal policy that made the corn-hog reduction program obsolete but replaced it with an emphasis on soil conservation and terracing. The Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station established the Dixon Springs substation in Pope County in 1934. By the late 1950s, George E. McKibben began experimenting with no-till or zero-till cultivation techniques at Dixon Springs in an ongoing effort to reform agricultural production techniques during the production revolution.
Debra A. Reid grew up on a farm in southern Illinois and earned a Ph.D. in history at Texas A&M University. She is a professor in the History Department, a fellow of the Agricultural History Society, and immediate past-president of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. She and Chris Laingen from the Department of Geology/Geography have launched a new interdisciplinary minor in rural studies at Eastern. She has taught The History of Illinois Agriculture at the University of Illinois since 2005. Her most recent publications include the regional histories of Illinois agriculture for the new book Illinois Historic Farms: Honoring Our Enduring Heritage of Family-Owned Farms (Acclaim Press, 2015) and a manuscript, Interpreting Agricultural History, for Rowman & Littlefield (under contract).