Cross-country combine “Prairie Belle” retired

After travelling 4,000 kilometres across Canada, and four years helping harvest crops and raise funds at the Big Quill Canadian Foodgrains Bank Community Growing Project, the Prairie Belle has been retired.

 The 1980 Massey Ferguson 860 combine became well known in 2000, when owner Nick Parsons drove it from his farm in Dawson Creek, B.C. to Ottawa to draw attention to the plight of Canadian farmers struggling to stay on the land.

 As the Prairie Belle made its way across Canada, communities and businesses along the way showed their support by adding decals, photos and signs—the combine was literally covered in the history of the trip.

 In 2007, when Parsons no longer needed the Prairie Belle, he donated it to the Big Quill Community Growing Project, located near Quill Lake, Saskatchewan. It has served the project well since that time, says project organizer Mike Humeny—but now it’s time to let it go.

“Equipment today has gotten so much bigger,” he says, noting that modern combines, which can handle  swaths of 30 to 36 feet (9.1 to 10.9 metres), dwarf the Prairie Belle, which can only handle 20 to 24-foot (6 to 7.3 metre) swaths.

With the approval of Parsons, the Prairie Belle will find a new home in the nearby Wadena, Sask. Museum, where it will be part of the farm machinery exhibit.

During its time at the Big Quill project, the Prairie Belle was a tremendous asset, Humeny says.

“It wasn’t just a combine—the Prairie Belle was a celebrity,” he says. “It generated a lot of publicity for the project and really raised the level of awareness about what we were doing. So many people liked to come out to see it.”

In its new home, the Prairie Belle will continue to promote the Foodgrains Bank; information at the display will include a note about its service at the Big Quill project.

“It’s sad to see it go,” Humeny says. “But it will have a good home in a place where everyone can enjoy it”

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