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  An eye on Farming

Dan Crawford’s photography led to the launch of the agricultural magazine Spudman

  By LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 11/14/10 
     To hear Dan Crawford tell it, he rode to success on the coattails of others.

   “I was the luckiest damn bum on earth. I associated with wonderful people who knew what they were doing.”

   Don’t believe it.

   Crawford, 88, whose agricultural photographs are being featured at the Klamath County Library in downtown Klamath Falls, was a successful professional photographer. Somewhat unintentionally, the images he shot over more than 30 years while living in the Tulelake Basin document a history of the evolution of agriculture, especially the potato industry.

   It was through his photography that Crawford branched into other fields away from agriculture. His freelance photography led to assignments for the defunct Tulelake Reporter newspaper, the Herald and News and various ag-related publications. That led to launching Spudman, the first specialty agricultural magazine. The first issue was published in 1963.

   When frustrated by the lack of reliable printers — “I hated their guts, especially the drunken printers” — he and the late Paul Tremaine combined to create Graphic Press.   When Crawford and his late wife, Ardina, wanted to travel, they organized world agricultural tours through Spudman that led to buying Sunshine Travel. At the urging of a friend, Cy Smith, Crawford was for several years a partner in KLAD radio.

   A challenge in retirement

   And when he needed a challenge in retirement, he developed the Indian Well Golf Course in 1982. Although others thought it would fail, it remains a favorite place for farmers and others to tee off on summer days. These days Crawford is living at the Crystal Terrace retirement home. He suffered an emotional setback Oct. 15 when Ardina, his wife of 67 years, died. Crawford credits Ardina, who like him was raised in the Tulelake-Newell area, for his successes. Crawford remains best remembered for Spudman, a magazine he created when he couldn’t find a job in agricultural journalism. “I was 40 years old and had a wife and two kids and no job and that was it. Everyone told me I was a fool to start that magazine, but I didn’t want to go back to farming.” He opened an office above Jock’s Supermarket in Tulelake, hired a secretary and “spent hours on the phone trying to hustle quarter-page ads.” After borrowing money from his father to keep the struggling magazine going, major national firms like Shell and Dow Chemical decided to focus marketing efforts on agricultural users “and I had the market   sewed up.” Spudman eventually had 19,000 readers in every state in the nation and 24 countries. He sold out in 1977 and the magazine is still alive, now under a third publisher, in Sparta, Minn. “Unlike Hugh Hefner, who wrote about girls,” he quips, referring to the publisher of Playboy, “I wrote about potatoes.” For Crawford, life was about learning and being flexible. “I haven’t got a formal education in journalism or photography. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned by the seat of my pants.”







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