Farming with Horses

South Dakota man finds satisfaction farming with horses

| December 2007

  • Alan Sorensen walks beside a friend as he tries his hand at the horse-drawn corn planter
    Alan Sorensen walks beside a friend, Gus Craven, as he tries his hand at the horse-drawn corn planter.
  • A relic abandoned in a quiet corner of the barn? Not hardly. This John Deere no. 999 corn planter is a working implement on Alan Sorensen's South Dakota farm. Deere & Co. produced the 999 planter from 1913 into the mid-1940s.
    A relic abandoned in a quiet corner of the barn? Not hardly. This John Deere no. 999 corn planter is a working implement on Alan Sorensen's South Dakota farm. Deere & Co. produced the 999 planter from 1913 into the mid-1940s.
  • John Deere no. 999 corn planter
    The John Deere no. 999 corn planter was shown in red in a 1916 branch catalog.
  • Alan has used a John Deere no. 999 2-row horse-drawn corn planter for more than 30 years
    Alan has used a John Deere no. 999 2-row horse-drawn corn planter for more than 30 years to plant 5 acres of corn on his farm east of Yankton, S.D. He bought this planter nearly 20 years ago at a nearby farm sale for $40.
  • The familiar John Deere logo is emblazoned on the top of this seed can
    The familiar John Deere logo is emblazoned on the top of this seed can.

  • Alan Sorensen walks beside a friend as he tries his hand at the horse-drawn corn planter
  • A relic abandoned in a quiet corner of the barn? Not hardly. This John Deere no. 999 corn planter is a working implement on Alan Sorensen's South Dakota farm. Deere & Co. produced the 999 planter from 1913 into the mid-1940s.
  • John Deere no. 999 corn planter
  • Alan has used a John Deere no. 999 2-row horse-drawn corn planter for more than 30 years
  • The familiar John Deere logo is emblazoned on the top of this seed can

Coming from a long line of farmers, Alan Sorensen knew he wanted to farm. But instead of embracing the newest technology, he skipped back a generation, and took up farming with horses.

Alan, who lives in Yankton, S.D., grew up in the southeastern part of the state in the 1950s. Today he works full-time as the county highway superintendent, and farms with horses as a sideline. "I don't know why I always wanted to try farming with horses," Alan says. "I was 4 when my folks bought me a horse. He was a mid-sized kid horse and I loved to ride."

Alan was even more fascinated by the teams his father occasionally used around the farm. One team, Pat and Mike, was used for fieldwork. Some of the other horses were driven for pleasure, sometimes singly on a cart.

When Alan was a teenager, an opportunity presented itself but the timing was wrong. "My dad's uncle sold out and moved to town when I was about 18," Alan says. "He had a lot of horse-drawn equipment out under his trees, but I didn't have any way to haul anything then and I didn't think much about buying any of it."



A few years later, after Alan had purchased his own team of draft horses, he went to an auction on a nearby farm. "Iron prices weren't very high then and nobody was interested in the horse machinery on the sale," he recalls. "I bought a disc for $4. I think I bought a plow for less than that."

One of the items being sold, a John Deere 999 two-row corn planter, was more expensive. "I paid $20 for the planter," Alan says. "I was pretty sure I could use my team to plant corn with it."