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'Drowning in Dirt: Joseph Hutton and the Dust Bowl' exhibit opening March 2

Farmers in in 1936 in South Dakota
Photo by Joseph Hutton, taken in 1936 in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum presents its latest exhibit, “Drowning in Dirt: Joseph Hutton and the Dust Bowl.”

This exhibit explores life in South Dakota during the 1930s through the eyes of a soil scientist trying to save family farms by preserving the land.

The opening reception is March 2 from 4:30-7 p.m. A presentation from Dale Potts, associate professor of history in South Dakota State University’s School of American and Global Studies, begins at 5:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Professor Joseph Hutton, one of the first soil scientists in South Dakota, researched and taught at SDSU from 1911 to 1939. He brought a new concept that not all soil was the same and that different soils required different farming practices to be sustainable. For Hutton, soil became a sacred living entity in which sprang all life.

During the drought of the 1920s and 1930s, Hutton saw the devastation that loss of healthy farmland had on families and their surrounding communities. He dreamed of a time when man was akin with nature and not the destroyer of it. He used any form of communication, including poetry, to promote this idea.

“Joseph Hutton was a scientist, a photographer and a writer. He was passionate about sustainability of the soil so that farmland would always be able to provide food,” said Gwen McCausland, director of the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum. “The ideas he implemented a hundred years ago are the same fundamentals of soil health still promoted today by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. It is not a new concept but a very important one that needs to be repeated.”

This exhibit will be on display at the museum until fall 2024. It is funded in part by a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by the Friends of the Museum membership fund. 
About the SDAHM
The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum’s mission is to inspire a passion for the diverse history, culture and science of agriculture in South Dakota. It is the official state museum for preserving the history of agriculture and rural life of South Dakota as well a department of South Dakota State University. It is the state coordinator for the National History Day program in South Dakota. The museum is located in the historic Stock Judging Pavilion on the SDSU campus at 977 11th St., Brookings, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 605-688-6226 or visit
About SDHC
Founded in 1972, the South Dakota Humanities Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the only cultural organization in the state whose sole mission is to deliver humanities programming to the people of South Dakota.