Heritage display honors farm equipment of the past

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Organizers of Farm Technology Days believe one of the reasons the show continues to be so popular is there is the opportunity to see a large variety of farm equipment spanning the decades.

LOYAL – Farm Technology Days is the kind of show that evokes glowing memories of farming days a generation or two ago among older visitors.

Large, sleek machines built with the latest technology, moving effortlessly across fields adjacent to Tent City create a stark example of progress compared to the lumbering horse-drawn or steam-powered machinery in the Heritage display.

Foremost in their thoughts are long ago times when farm work was done with smaller, slower, and by today’s standards, rather low-tech equipment. While the work in their farming era required more hand labor and hard work, the tasks still got done.

The goal of the Heritage committee, according to co-chair Roger Erickson, is to develop a display that illustrates the progress made by past generations, speaking to the struggles of years past and how progress has improved the agriculture industry.

The Heritage equipment display at the show draws a big audience and Erickson and fellow committee members have been busy over the last few months talking with antique farm equipment enthusiasts and inviting them to participate in this year’s show.

Nearly 80 pieces of old equipment on display will range from steam engines to unique older plows and small garden tractors to vintage tractors from the 1920's up to the 1980s.

“Some of the tractors on display will be restored and others will be in their ‘plain clothes’ as we call it, just as they were when they were used decades ago,” Erickson said.

Comparing tractors and machinery using precision technology to the machines of a long past era, Erickson says it will obvious how much agriculture has advanced over the years.

Roger Erickson

“We want to highlight the advancements in agriculture at this show but it is also about honoring the equipment of the past,” he notes.

While the antique farm equipment will not be a part of the field demonstrations, a few of the older tractors will be used to pull trams around the farm, taking visitors from one area to another.

To find old equipment for the display, Erickson and his committee visited last year’s Farm Technology Days at Eau Claire and spoke with collectors. The group also reached out to antique farm equipment clubs from the Clark County area.

Erickson is a part of the local Granton Antique Farm Equipment Club and its 90 plus members will be supplying many of the pieces on display..

The Granton club members enjoy taking their tractors out for excursions along rural backroads, comparing notes on tractors as well as sharing their experiences in restoring equipment. And, of course, to reminisce.

Erickson was one of six members who had the opportunity to drive an antique tractor across the Mackinac Bridge years ago. Now in its 14th year, the annual Mackinac Bridge Antique Tractor Crossing and Show attracts well over 900 tractors that take up one lane as they parade across the five-mile long bridge.

Erickson is the proud owners of a few collector models which includes an older Case IH, a John Deere and a Fendt, as well as a 1963 Oliver – all tractors he used on his own farm in his earlier years of farming. Today Erickson crops about 5200 acres, raising corn, soybeans and alfalfa. He also does a little custom harvesting.

Organizers of Farm Technology Days believe one of the reasons the show continues to be so popular is there is the opportunity to see a large variety of farm equipment spanning the decades. 

Even in Tent City where the commercial exhibitors display their wares, visitors see the obvious advancements in agriculture. Grandpas look at the huge, computerized and expensive equipment on display and shake their heads in awe. Meanwhile their sons and grandsons, who have grown up in a world of computers and technology, are busy talking with the sales reps about the technology, trade-ins, payback time and financing.

This contrast of old and now truly embodies this year's show theme “Where Tradition and Technology Meet.”