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An episode of John Nash Ott's weekly television program How Does Your Garden Grow?, focusing on the history of wheat production and its marketing and transportation within the United States' Wheat Belt. How Does Your Garden Grow? first aired in 1951 on the Chicago television station WNBQ (channel 5), and became part of NBC network programming where it continued to air until 1956.
The film begins with a brief montage summarizing wheat's journey from harvest to individual consumption, and then transitions to the home studio of host John Ott who greets the audience, displays a loaf of bread in his hands, and introduces the story of wheat as the day's topic. He briefly lectures on wheat's traced origins to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, emphasizes its significance in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations, and presents earthen jars on loan from the Chicago Natural History Museum that were once used to store wheat.
The scene shifts to the heart of the Wheat Belt, the North American region where wheat is the primary agricultural commodity. Ott narrates the journey of wheat as it is developed into disease-resistant varieties, grown on farms (documented in a time-lapse photography sequence), harvested with mechanical combines, stored in local grain elevators, transported by train to Santa Fe's Argentine Freight Yards, inspected by the State Grain Inspection Department, presented in samples to the Kansas City Board of Trade, placed on the market, transported by rail to buyers who process and grind the wheat into flour, and finally shipped to grocery stores or bakeries where it is prepared for local consumer purchase.
The film concludes back in Ott's home studio as he emphasizes the important role that railroads play in making a loaf of bread available year-round to the consumer.
In Ott's autobiography, My Ivory Cellar: The Story of Time-Lapse Photography, he describes a scenario in which the Santa Fe Railroad had provided on-call freight and passenger trains for the film's disposal, and an unsuspecting farmer serendipitously drove his combine into the film's shooting vicinity just as, "The script...called for a scene showing a combine working in a wheat field and a freight train of grain cars going past in the background." Ott humorously relates that as he persuaded the farmer into participation and tried to assure him that he had a train, "with newly painted engines, and one hundred nice new grain cars waiting around the bend," the farmer remained disbelieving until Ott relayed a signal to the cameraman, and then, "In a few seconds back came a long loud 'Toot, toot,' from the compressed air horn on the diesel engine. It was interesting to see the sudden expression of surprise on the farmer's face. Without saying anything more, he started up the combine and headed for the other side of the tracks, shaking his head as he went." The farmer and his combine are featured in the film's beginning montage.
27 min 6 sec
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