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Thursday, March 12, 2015

#TBT Horsepower

This is first in a series I am calling #TBT, Throwback Thursday.  You can go here if you want to know the background behind the series.  Each week myself along with the help of other farmers and ranchers plan to show you how our farms have changed over the years.  What would you like to know about?  Are you a farmer that would like to share a piece of your farm evolution with us or have some great pictures to share?  Send me a message!

Why do farmers use tractors?

Horsepower has certainly changed meanings over the last 200 years.  When my Great-Great Grandfather moved to Kansas, they said all his equipment and household fit in one boxcar while the horses and family rode in a second one.  Today, we couldn't fit some pieces of equipment in a boxcar!

Real Horsepower

Horses were the main mode of transportation and power for our early farmers, but horses required feed and care even if they weren't working.  The could also be stubborn and took lots of time to train.  Farmers also had to allow them rest time as well as lots of time training them.
    Photo Credit:  Used with permission from the Wilson County Old Iron Club.  Elmer H. Voth plowing as a young boy in the early '30s

Early Tractors

Tractors came along.  Both of our family's hold dear tractors that were purchased over 50 years ago.  In fact, the guys have been working this winter to refurbish the John Deere 60 that we still use for its 60th birthday this year.

The first tractor I learned to drive was a tractor very similar, a John Deere 50.  While most kids were learning to drive a car, I was learning to drive the same tractor my dad learned to drive.  This model had no power steering and a hand clutch.  It also had no seat belt or protective structure if it happened to rollover.   The only shade I had was the hat I decided to wear that day.  Imagine raking hay the 15th of July in Kansas when the temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees and sitting in the seat just feet from the engine.  Yes, it was hot.  Yes, I was probably dehydrated most of the summer.

Powerhouse Tractors of Today

Tractors today have many more conveniences than those early ones.
Photo Credit to Eagle Seed.


Shade is huge, so fewer farmers are suffering from skin cancer.  The Farmer's grandfathers and my grandmother all had many skin cancer lesions from their backs, faces and necks.  When we are in the shade of a cab or even canopy we are protected from the harmful rays of the sun.  I can not tell you how many times I was sun burnt after raking hay on the John Deere 50.


Have you ever met a farmer that used to drive an "open station" tractor or one without a cab?  They can't hear very well. Hundreds of hours working on those tractors with no hearing protection really damaged their ears.  Today's cabs make it easy to talk on the phone and listen to the radio.  My kids have even watched movies in the combine cab with no problem hearing the audio.

Most tractors today have a radio, CD Player or Ipod port.  If they have a cab, they most certainly have air conditioning.  All the windows that let us view what is going on soak up lots of heat even if it is cold outside.

More Power!

Not only do they have all of these conveniences, but they allow farmers to get over more acres in a much shorter period of time than when we used horses.  

There are seatbelts, power brakes, air ride seats (if you are lucky), power steering, and more.  Now these are just your basic tractor features, later I will cover the technology found inside the cabs of today's modern horse power. 

-A Kansas Farm Mom


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