John Deere Green, Case IH Red, even some Minneapolis Moline Prairie Gold could be found at the Mexico Young Farmers Truck and Tractor Pull this weekend, as well as over 3,000 spectators, including myself. After living in Missouri for nearly two years, I thought it was about time I checked out my first Missouri tractor pull this weekend. Growing up in rural southern Iowa, I've been going to truck and tractor pulls my entire life, but I quickly found out Missourians take it to a different level.
It should come as no surprise, considering Missouri was one of the first states to hold motorized pulling competitions in 1929, according to the National Tractor Pullers Association website. The Mexico Young Farmers Truck and Tractor Pull, which is in its 9th year, is a testament to that tradition, with more people and more tractors and trucks showing up each year.
"My first year we were looking at what programs and activities to have and one of the ideas was to have a community event," says Ted DeVault, Mexico Young Farmers advisor and adult ag instructor at Mexico's Hart Career Center. "The advisor board wanted to try a tractor pull and everyone was willing to pitch in. We got together and had a small-scale tractor pull to see how the community would respond. We had over 1,300 people show up and we were overwhelmed."
Over the years, more classes of trucks and tractors have been added, and the event now has 11 classes and two tracks side-by-side. In 2011, the event won Xcaliber's Pull of the Year Award. "It has grown into one of the biggest and most attended tractor pulls around," DeVault says. "For a small town it's become very well-known."
This year the event drew over 100 pullers, compared to last year's 96. This includes pullers from Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and as far away as Kentucky. Around 150 volunteers pitched in, including members of Missouri Cattlemen's Association, Missouri Pork Association, Mexico Young Farmers, and Mexico FFA. Last year's even drew 2,500 to 3,000 attendees, while this year drew over 3,000 – at least 2,000 adults who paid at the gate, about 1,000 children under 12 who got in free, in addition to volunteers and friends and family members of pullers who got in free.
"It's very widely supported around Mexico. There are a lot of local people that come," DeVault says. "We've been very specific to make it family-friendly. There aren't a whole lot of family events to do anymore."
All the proceeds go toward scholarships for Mexico High School students, Mexico FFA, Audrain County Cattlemen’s Association, and Mexico Young Farmers educational programs, and improvements to the Audrain County 4-H Fairgrounds, where the event is held each year. Proceeds have also helped pay for a charter bus to the Western Farm Show, and sometimes a bus to the Farm Progress Show.
This year, between $7,000 and $10,000 was raised to go toward these organizations. To date, Mexico Young Farmers has donated around $25,000 toward scholarships and around $24,000 toward fairground improvements.
"Local businesses give quite a few sponsorships and advertise, and that helps to pay for all of the scholarships and all the money we're able to donate," DeVault says. "We don't cover the cost of the pull with gate admission. It's the sponsors that allow us to earn a profit and give a little back."
Then there is the educational component of the Mexico Young Farmers, which includes bi-monthly meetings during winter; a Farm Business Management Analysis (FBMA) program, a one-on-one program to help members develop business plans, set benchmarks and goals, and track improvement; community service with programs like Adopt-A Family; and agricultural advocacy and educating the public on agricultural practices.
For these services, the Mexico Young Farmers Association was one of six organizations in the nation to receive the 2013 Outstanding Postsecondary/Adult Agricultural Education Program award from the National Association of Agricultural Educations (NAAE). Toyota Motor Sales USA, which sponsors the award, awarded a two-year lease of a 2014 Toyota Tundra to DeVault earlier this spring for use in the organization and on his farm near Mexico.