A Horse-Drawn Cultivator Collection That Works

Vintage horse-drawn cultivators see active duty in the cornfield.


| September 2015



New Century Cultivator Alan

This photo shows how farmers placed lines used to drive the horses behind their back while using both arms to operate levers on the New Century cultivator. The cultivator shanks were controlled by foot stirrups.

Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Cultivators are quickly fading from the modern agricultural scene, but the rich history of design and innovation behind these vintage implements, which date to the 1850s, isn’t likely to be uprooted anytime soon.

Yankton, South Dakota, draft horse enthusiast Alan Sorensen has acquired several vintage cultivators over the last 40 years that help illustrate the varying designs and evolution of early cultivators. His collection – used in cultivating his annual corn crop with his Belgian team – includes a 1-row McCormick-Deering, 1-row New Century, 1-row Emerson disc cultivator, a 2-row Case cultivator and a 1-horse garden cultivator.

“At the time I brought these home, none of them had a lot of value,” Alan says. “I just wanted to use them with my Belgian teams.” The collection started in 1973 with the New Century cultivator similar to one Alan’s dad used as a boy.

“The seat can be flipped so you can either ride or walk behind it,” he says. The first horse-drawn cultivator he had used, it was a handful at the beginning. “You steer it with your feet,” he says, “which seemed difficult for me while I was driving my team, too.”

The New Century was produced by Roderick Lean Mfg. Co., Mansfield, Ohio. Founded in 1870, the company produced an extensive line of tillage implements. Promoted as “the original leverless cultivator,” the New Century remained in production even after Lean merged with others in 1930 to form Farm Tools, Inc.

McCormick-Deering still on the job

Alan bought his McCormick-Deering piece from longtime friend Praben Lee (since deceased). Alan paid $40 for the cultivator. “It was much easier for me to operate than the New Century,” he says. “For the most part, it’s the one I take to the field each year.”