The picture of a Model A Ford homemade tractor (Farm Collector, March 2009, “Cracker Christmas”, page 36) takes me back to World War II days. My mother’s family had a 10-acre farm in south Jersey. Fieldwork was done by horse until Mom’s brothers built a homemade tractor.
We had two tractors. One was made from a Ford Model A and the other a 4-cylinder Chevrolet (pre-1929). The front part was a car, and the rear axle assembly was a low-speed unit with chains wrapped through the rims and through the airless tires taken from a bus or truck. Slowest speed was essential so the plow didn’t throw soil all about. At the end of a row you stopped, got off to raise the plow by hand, got on and turned around, stopped, got off and lowered the plow. There was no body – you sat on a box.
During the war years, my uncle who worked the farm also worked in a Camden, N.J., shipyard (they did Navy work and were extremely busy). After war’s end, the farm grew to 40 acres and we purchased a neighbor’s farm. We bought two new International Farmall Super A tractors. Farming stopped at my uncle’s death in 1965. The land was sold and buildings demolished. In 2006, the land was still idle and overgrown.
Our big crop was tomatoes; the soil was very sandy and perfect. Campbell Soup of Camden, N.J., was our biggest customer. The company had small canning plants all over our area and always bought “dead ripe” tomatoes and processed them on the spot. There were no fees for hauling, basket loss or brokers.
We raised corn (our crib was the size of a one-car garage) for our chickens, ducks and geese. Our two pigs ate whatever we had for them. The retired horse was very select and only ate baled hay. Our only cow would trade corn fodder for milk. After I bought a car, I traveled to the farm whenever I had free time. (I lived in Philadelphia and the trip took a half hour if you didn’t get caught. Now it takes more than an hour if you’re lucky.) In the winter you would first greet Grandmom, then cut wood and take it to the house, and then feed barn animals. Later you’d sit and talk with others while you shucked corn for the chickens (the cobs went with the wood to heat the house).
It is all gone now, but I would go back to it in a heartbeat. It was always work but I didn’t mind and I would trade it for anything I have now. So much for progress.
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