On the 20th anniversary of their company, Ag PhD owners Brian and Darren Hefty decided it was time to recognize farmers on the public stage.
Several years ago, the Hefty brothers rode on a float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day. Now it is their turn to give that opportunity to 100 farmers around the country.
The theme for this year’s parade is “Making a Difference.” The Heftys feel that there is no one who makes a bigger difference than farmers who feed not only their own families, but millions of others.
Ag PhD, located in small East River town of Baltic, has the chance to put farmers in the limelight in a big way, creating a monster float that will maneuver through the streets of Pasadena, giving those viewing live and on television the chance to get to know a bit about farming.
The company owners say that the reason behind the creation of the float is that most people, when asked what they think about agriculture really don’t understand what farmers do. They believe many falsehoods about how food is produced and that there is no concern for safety. That just isn’t true, the brothers say, and Ag PhD is determined to change that with this type of impact.
“What better way to show that modern agriculture is still about great people than to have 100 amazing farmers from across the country, and especially South Dakota, riding on the float?” said Brian Hefty.
Many of these farmers have worked with Ag PhD over the years.
“While things like GMO’s genetics and big equipment all play a role in modern farming, the strength of agriculture has always been and will always be the people. From everything we’ve been told, there has never been a Rose Parade float with more riders than what the Ag PhD ‘Salute to Farmers’ float will have,” said Hefty.
The float, which is one of just 18 commercial floats in the parade, has the honor of driving the route among the spectacle of bands, equestrian entries, commercial, and non-commercial floats, decorated with millions of live plants and flowers. The Ag PhD float will be approximately 110 feet long and 18 feet wide, towering more than 30 feet high at its peak.
“Who makes more of a difference than farm families feeding families?” asked Alex George, media director for Ag PhD.
According to the Ag PhD website, in the United States there is the healthiest, most abundant, safest, and cheapest food supply in the world. That’s all thanks to farmers, Hefty said.
A float-building company, Artistic Entertainment Services, created the float, but there will be a whole lot of farmers and others from South Dakota there helping to decorate who have volunteered their time and effort.
“Not just anyone can build a float for the parade,” said George Hefty. “There are only a few companies that can do this.”
The volunteers painstakingly glue flower petals, seeds, and other plant matter to the float, which includes a tractor in the front of the float, a combine mid-float, and a giant United States flag at the rear. Also on the float are mini-fields of crops that are grown in South Dakota.
“We are honored to have been chosen to participate in this year’s Tournament of Roses parade,” said Brian Hefty. “We are hoping to bring a little recognition to farmers, since we feel farmers are unsung heroes in our society. If consumers today understand it is simply hard-working American families living on the land and producing food, I think a lot of the disconnection we have with non-farmers will start to go away. Ag PhD will highlight many of the farmers on their website. Farmers like Terry Wieting, a third-generation farmer from Huron, who knows all about how tech has improved farming. He and his brother, Mel, developed technology that is being used in 41 states and over 25 countries, and has generated $18 million in sales. Together they dreamed up and developed ‘AgSense,’ remote agricultural monitoring that initially covered pivot irrigation systems.”
Another farmer riding the float will be Dale Nothdurft, a second-generation farmer from Beresford who, along with his brother, Dan, created a tire franchise of three stores. They still love the land, and Dale eventually headed back to the farm his father still owned.
Another farmer on the float will be Phil Hamburger of Seneca. He is a fourth-generation farmer. “At least,” he said.
Hamburger farms with his wife, Barb, and four adult children. He’s putting Seneca, population 36, on the map. Probably every person in town will be watching the parade on Jan. 1.