Farm Implements Complete the Story of Farming Heritage

Old implements tell the bigger picture of farming heritage

| March 2011

Here in Britain old tractors are big business. Some people pay vast sums of money for rare models and collectors vie for a chance to own that special machine. The implements that accompany these tractors, however, are nowhere near as sought after. Many have long since disappeared to the great scrap yard in the sky. It’s still possible to find bargains, with some beautifully made items often sold for no more than scrap value. 

Starting with a spreader

A couple of years ago I bought an old land-drive fertilizer spreader for just £5 (roughly $8). I still use this spreader. It’s such a simple machine that very little can go wrong with it. I’m very fond of land-drive farm machinery. It is nice and quiet to use, and much less expensive than PTO-driven equipment, as real farmers don’t want these outdated relics and collectors are still very much focused on tractors.

The problem is one of space, I suppose. Implements take up more room than a tractor and since they aren’t always worth a great deal people don’t want to give them the shed space. What’s more, in recent years the value of scrap metal has risen considerably. Many big old implements are worth more to the scrap man than they are to the collector. This is a shame because tractors only tell part of the story of our farming heritage. A tractor alone is little more than a power source, but the implements that go with it are what plough the land, turn the hay and till the soil. It is sad that some of our skillfully made farm tools of yesteryear are worth so little today.

All tractors were made by relatively large companies. Some implements, though, were made by craftsmen like the village blacksmith who built the 100-year-old plough my brother now owns. Items like these tell us about the history of farming in our part of the country, and are also evidence of a time when goods were produced locally by inventive individuals and small industries.

Branching out to a baler

I bought my old Massey Ferguson baler in 2000 BC (before children) when I had seven acres of flat land at my disposal to make hay with. When I bought the tractor, it came with a finger bar mower that did a fine job of cutting hay as long as you didn’t let the crop get too long and old. It was well suited to meadow hay, which was what I had, and it looked like a sensible idea to try to get hold of some more vintage hay-making equipment so that I could do the whole job myself.

My late father had coped with the idea of me buying a tractor, but when I told him I was thinking of buying a baler, he didn’t much like it. He seemed to think that what with me being female, well, I might just go and mangle myself in the baler. It was all slightly insulting, as what he was forgetting was that I was far too cautious to do something like that, whereas my brother, Wil, who was (and still is) male and a “proper farmer,” frequently did daft and dangerous things with farm implements (like kicking hay into the baler while it was running). He was actually far more likely to bale himself than I was.