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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Germans document Tractor odyssey

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Sac County Fair Board sponsored a tractor ride - mostly antiques - for all who wanted to participate. Not unusual except that the ride was documented by a television crew from Germany who are situated in the United States to bring the American people and their stories to their home country.

The tractors traveled through Newell making two stops there - at DFS where the riders were treated to a tour and a meal and then to see Mayor Dick Christiansen's extensive antique tractor and engine collection.

When Christiansen agreed several months ago to share his collection he was unaware of the television crew that would be present. It was a pleasant surprise.

The some 30 tractor drivers and the TV crew were interested in his "toys" that date back to the early part of the 1900s.

Klaus Scherer is a correspondent for Channel 1 at ARD (Australia, Russia, Denmark) - one of the world's largest broadcast organizations.

The non-profit, non-government public network is the market leader of news programs in Germany and commits a large percentage of its prime time programming to reports and documentaries abroad. News bureaus in 27 countries underscore the network's commitment to international reporting. He is situated at ARD's Washington DC Bureau which runs one of the largest foreign broadcast operations in the city.

He has scanned the United States - from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Statue of Liberty - and has made two previous trips to Iowa.

The broadcasts Scherer helps bring to the people of Germany focus on the topics of health, war, education, farming and the economy - all things the people of his country are interested in comparing to their own lives.

"One of the things we do is cover the news coming from America but when we get the chance, we leave Washington behind and talk about real people and real lives. There are always close links to the people back home," he commented.

He has seen the devastation of the floods in New Orleans and he has seen the devastation of the recent Iowa floods.

He was made aware of the tractor ride while spending some time traveling with Congressman Steve King. He knew it was something that people would be interested in.

"When we are doing a travel documentary, we try to find people who are moving."

And this event was definitely on the move, though slow, it provided a great experience to Scherer and the other members of the crew.

"It was beautiful. These farmers looked as happy as children on Christmas morning sitting on those tractors. It was a good opportunity for us, too. We enjoyed the picture and the landscape. Our job isn't just in Washington, D.C., there is flat land, too. I was amazed at the intensity of these people and how they took care of these tractors," Scherer said.

He was also impressed how the tractor drivers met at the fair grounds, visited and then returned.

The crew had the chance to learn about the Iowa farmer, talking to the tractor drivers - mostly farmers or retired - about such things as biofuel which Scherer said will lend "better times to them than before" and learn opinions from politics to economy. These opinions, he said, will be important for the German farmers to see as many of them are going through the same problems as farmers here. The numbers of farms in Germany are dwindling just as they are in the United States.

Scherer added that he was impressed "with the variety of landscapes" he has seen throughout the nation - from the flat farm land to the mountains to California's oceans.

"The Germans enjoy traveling so if we can take them with us on these trips they will be interested. These documentaries are daily life, it's not dry footage, they share stories as if our viewers traveled with us."

A portion of the filming from DFS and of Christiansen's tractors will be included in a segment that will highlight the nation from California to New York. The documentary will follow a 45-minute piece profiling the two presidential candidates.

The pieces will be broadcast on Channel 1 pre-election on Oct. 29. So if you happen to be in Germany then...tune in!

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