Ronning Harvester Is One of a Kind

Ahead of its time

| January 2009

One day Roger Dale, Hanley Falls, Minn., received a call from a local bank officer, urging him to come to a grove of trees on a repossessed farmstead between Cottonwood and Minneota, Minn. There was something Roger should see.

As soon as Roger saw the piece of old machinery abandoned in the trees, he knew it was a ensilage harvester. He also knew it was a type he had never seen before. “It was semi-mounted on a Fordson tractor, and neither one of them was in very good shape,” he says.

But old iron collectors aren’t always concerned with condition. Roger put in a small bid on the piece, won it and took the harvester home, where it languished for four years. It wasn’t that Roger had lost interest in the harvester; there were just so many pieces of old iron to have fun with. Besides, he already had another harvester.

Then, during a rural electric-sponsored bus trip, Roger got to talking old iron with another collector. In passing, he described his unusual harvester. After a while, a woman (Adair Kelley) who’d been listening in from across the aisle leaned over and said, “I think I know what that machine is, and if it is, my father invented it.”

“I explained what it looked like, and she said it indeed was the one her father had invented, and I was in second heaven,” Roger says. “It was unreal. I couldn’t believe it. From then on Adair Kelley and I took over the conversation, and the other guy was long-lost. She and I were instant buddies.”

Restoring a relic
So begins the saga of Roger’s involvement with a 1918 Ronning ensilage harvester invented by Adolph Ronning, Boyd, Minn. After discovering its background, and talking with Adair, daughter of the late inventor, Roger decided to restore the machine.