Antique tractor plow day highlights 300 years of ag technology

By Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer


Three tractors make their way through the field as they plow for the Antique Tractor Plow Day held in Nottawa, MI.
Brock and Brody Smith drive their Farmall, making the day a family event.
Cork Babcock with his Ferguson was being recorded by a drone overhead during the Plow Day activities.

Three centuries of agricultural technology came together on one farm in Nottawa, MI, on April 22, as the second annual Antique Tractor Plow Day was held. By the end of the event, 35 acres of land had been plowed by over 20 antique tractors, many with their original implements.

“The turnout is double from what we had last year,” John Yoder said. “This is above my expectations, especially with the forecast and the weather being questionable.” Yoder organized the event and is known as the announcer for the annual antique tractor pulls held at the St. Joseph County Grange Fair in Centreville, Michigan.

Among the tractors present for the plowing were a number of familiar names like Farmall, John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Ferguson, and Ford Power Master. The more unusual units were a Co-op, a Rumely Oil Pull and, surprisingly, a yellow John Deere. Many of the tractors went out and took their turns plowing with a range of bottoms from a single to a couple of fives. The bottoms are the actual parts that break the sod and move the dirt. Some were mechanical hand operated while other drivers employed a hydraulic system.

Cork Babcock is from Three Rivers, Michigan, and brought his grandfather’s 1952 Ferguson TO 30. “I inherited this tractor from my grandfather,” he said. “This was formerly my Uncle Howard Kelley’s farm. It was kind of neat that I got to plow on his farm.”

Along with the antique tractors, a different set of horsepower made an appearance at the event. Centreville, Michigan, resident Lee Wickey brought his draft mules to share in the festivities. Rock and Dan, a pair of gelding mules, were a favorite for the children and the cameras. The event was a family-friendly one with many families watching and a few participated, allowing the young people an opportunity to drive.

A modern phenomena was also on hand at the Plow Day as Jonathan Yoder of Sturgis, Michigan, brought his drone to record the proceedings. “I’ll record from 100 feet up,” he said. “I have been using this unit primarily for imaging on the farm.”

Gary Zielke assisted in the planning of the Plow Day. “We all grew up on tractors,” he said. “My dad (Floyd Zielke) was the Ford tractor dealer in Centreville, Michigan, after the war.”

The event was sponsored by Nottawa Lumber and the plans for the third annual event in 2017 are underway.