Tractor Collectors Warming to Farm Implements

Farm Implements prove worthy collectibles among tractor collectors

| January 1999

"We don't make no big to-do of farming here on Nettie's little spot of land, but it's good enough for a humble old couple like me and Nettie. Yes'm, it's just a one-horse farm. We buy our fertilizer from the Marion Oil Mill, and do our own mixing. Put 600 pounds to the acre of such grade of fertilizer as acid, nitrate of potash, soda and cotton seed meal. We've got a guano distributor, that hay rake over there, and a few turnplows, but that's about the limit of our farming equipment." 

That passage was taken from a 1939 Federal Writer's Project interview, in which Annie Ruth Davis interviewed Berkeley Grice, Marion, S.C., on his farm operation. Early farmers, both large and small, used a variety of farm implements to increase productivity and keep pace with the ever-present challenge of "finding a better way."

While the farm tractor may have made major inroads into farm labor, implements have provided the mechanism for farmers to do more with less. In this century, farmers have steadily taken on ever increasing acreage. As of 1998, the average North Dakota farm, for example, is about 1,300 acres, compared to 460 in 1920, while the total number of farms has dropped from almost 78,000 in 1920 to a little under 30,000 today.

Like tractors, farm implements have evolved as technology evolves. The threshing machine has given way to the combine, usually a self-propelled unit that either picks up windrowed grain, or cuts and threshes it in one step. The grain binder has been replaced by the swather, which cuts the grain and lays it on the ground in windrows, allowing it to dry before being harvested by a combine. Plows are not used nearly as extensively as before, due in large part to the popularity of minimum tillage, which reduces soil erosion and conserves moisture. The disk harrow today is more often used after harvest to cut up the stubble left in the field. And although seed drills are still used, the air seeder is becoming more popular.

But nostalgia for the old equipment tends to keep pace with the advancement of technology. Many collectors today seek implements that can be used in combination with a restored tractor.

Compared to antique tractors, though, this area of the market remains little known to many collectors. Take some tips from these "insiders":