Monday, November 14, 2016

Farmall Calendar: "It isn't just about tractors"

      Richard Schmitt remembers the first tractor he ever drove.
     “My dad started farming in the mid-40s — he had a Farmall F20,” said Schmitt, 82. “I was about 7 years old, and he taught me how to drive it. My dad still had horses, yet I couldn’t drive a horse; the horses he had were kinda wild-like.”
     Mechanized farming is such a given now, it might be hard to imagine that once farmers had to be persuaded to use tractors, which were both expensive and dangerous — a new one easily cost a year’s profits, and a quarter of the fatal farm accidents when Schmitt was a young man were caused by farmers being crushed by tractors. That had to be balanced against the ability to pull a bigger plow.
     “The horses couldn’t pull the 7-foot plow,” said Schmitt, who lives in Sterling, 100 miles due west of Chicago. “The tractor could pull a 7-foot disc, and the horses could only pull a 4-foot disc.” A bigger plow allowed for a bigger farm, more crops and — in theory — more money. “We were really farming big.”
     Now Schmitt owns 750 acres and 58 Farmall tractors, including five featured on the new 2017 Farmall calendar, which arrived on my desk last week, a welcome break from post-election turmoil. It was sent by Dan Herrick, an Oregon photographer with local roots, who works for a variety of websites selling farm equipment, including
     This is the second year he’s done the calendar.
     “My boss told me, ‘I’d love to see a Farmall calendar,'” Herrick remembered. “I said, ‘I know where a whole bunch of them are and can shoot them in their natural environment, all in north central Illinois.'”

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  1. my uncle had an allis chalmers on his farm in norther missouri, i drove it before i could ride a bike. I've always wanted to own a tractor. no idea where id put it

  2. Perfect!

    Just what we needed for a respite from politics.

    Although farming is far from free from that awful ogre.

    Industrial farming may not be genuine literally down-to-earth "farming," but it's not the wave of the future by any means -- it's the wave of the present. We urban dandies may drink our Belgian ale snacking on artisanal kale chips direct from a 20-acre local farm, but it seems to me that Budweiser rules the brewing world and ConAgra and its ilk supply most of our eatables and aren't likely to loosen their iron grip on our palates anytime soon.


  3. InBev, a Belgian company, is now a majority owner of Budweiser. Funniest aspect of the takeover was when Budweiser lovers worried that the quality of the beer would suffer.

    Tom Evans

    1. If you've ever taken a Chicago river tour, you may have heard the story about St. Louis suing Chicago for reversing the Illinois river flow and sending polluted water down its way. The punch line is that St. Louis lost the law suit, but got its revenge by putting the polluted water in cans and shipping it back North as Budweiser.


  4. "Really nice people, despite the fact that all of them are Trump fans"

    Wonderful column. I grew up in a tiny farm town - one of my oldest friends died last year in a tractor accident. Farming is a terribly dangerous profession. There are a lot of farmers nicknamed "lefty" because of auger mishaps.

    The nickname is, of course, ironic because so many of them are Trump supporters.

    The idea that a bullying narcissistic billionaire from Queens New York in going to champion small town farmer's needs is so ridiculous it defies comprehension. Yet here we are. How the Rubert Murdoch meme machine got these people to vote against their self interests is one for the ages. Now that Trump, 5 days after the election, is setting up an administration that will betray every ideal he professed to champion, his supporters are not turning on him, but rather changing their arguments for supporting him.

    We live in a age where, thanks to the Murdoch machine, words and ideas have no meaning. Ideas and reflection are for elitists . Fear and Anger are the coin of the realm now. Heaven help us.

  5. Learning about the agricultural history of a favorite vacation destination highlighted the transformative nature of modern agricultural machinery. The Crete Senese, a picturesque section of southern Tuscany, was historically poor farming country because the hard clay soil was difficult to till, and the large landowners were content to leave much of it fallow. With land reform in the 1950's came tractor pulled plows that were able to work the soil, and the area is now prosperous and a major producer of the hard wheat used to make pasta.

    Tom Evans


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