(February 29, 1908 – Jan. 15, 2001)
Plambeck became one of the best-known agricultural figures across the state and nation for his work in agricultural journalism.
Few people can match the years of active professionalism demonstrated by HHP, a farm boy from Scott County who devoted his life to service to Iowans and farm people. He received his bachelor’s in agronomy in 1936. His career as an agricultural communicator began in the 1930s and was still going strong in 1996 when he celebrated his 88th birthday, conducted regular radio programs on two stations, and was a featured columnist in Wallaces Farmer. He authored his autobiography, This is Herb – Never a Dull Moment.
Indeed, Plambeck is a one-of-a-kind journliast who never really retired but continued telling the stories of agricultural folks. To be interviewed by Plambeck was a most special event. He was a pioneer in farm broadcasting, starting at WHO Des Moines in 1936 when “Dutch” Reagan, later president of the United States, was a sportscaster. Over the years Plambeck became one of the best-known agricultural figures across the state and nation. He added to his reputation by originating radio programs in all 50 states and 65 foreign countries, including broadcasts as a temporary war correspondent during World War II.
Plambeck first gained national attention by founding plowing matches that provided a natural speaking platform for presidential candidates and others. The matches eventually were paired with soil conservation field days, adding to the popularity of a farm forum setting worthy of huge crowds and national media attention.
In 1970 Plambeck went to Washington, DC as a special assistant to Agriculture Secretary Clifford M. Hardin and later to his successor, Earl L. Butz. One of Plambekc’s biggest promotions was a “Farm Fari” held on the lawn of the White House. Its purpose was to call the nation’s attention to American farmers and their unequaled productivity.
After four years, Plambeck headed home to “retire.” However, he continued his radio broadcasting, began writing columns, served as superintendent of horticulture for the Iowa State Fair, and authored several books on farm safety, agriculture, and his own experiences. He was inducted into the ISU Agricultural Hall of Fall in 1969.
Plambeck earned more than 135 awards by 1984, when he received special recognition by the Iowa Farm Bureau. He was a founder and early president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters, and later became a full Lifetime Member.
Herbert Plambeck Papers, RS 21/7/42, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.
Blog: Cardinal Tails “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act” Nov. 19, 2017 https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2017/11/09/celebrating-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-public-broadcasting-act-pubmedia50-amarchivepub-radio-broadcasting/