Seeing the Hearts of Farmers

Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist

When my husband Steven and I started dating, he took me to the Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Show in Oakley to watch him pull his Oliver 77. He had rebuilt the tractor almost entirely himself. We were 16 years old and he had bought the tractor stock, rusted, and run down. For almost a year, he did all the things you needed to do to get it to be a “pulling tractor”.
I don’t really know the details. I grew up in a small town, but not on a farm. Farming was almost entirely new to me. The show filled with hundreds and hundreds of people that came from near and far to watch and compete in different types of pulls. Drivers pull heavy loads with antique gas tractors different distances to see who’s has the most power. I was standing by his mom off to the side and Steven was riding up to get in line to pull.
Just as he was half way across the field, POP. Everyone ducked for cover, because the noise was as loud as a gunshot. But it wasn’t. It was Steven’s tractor tire. He looked up at me across the field with a shocked look of embarrassment and disappointment that his whole year of wrenching was all for nothing. I gave him the same look back because I knew how hard he had worked to now miss his chance to pull, which was only 5 minutes away.
Everyone was now looking at him, as he sat in the middle of the grass lot with his head down trying to limp his Oliver off to the side. I started to walk up to him but stopped when I saw about 20 farmers (some we knew and some we didn’t) run toward him to help.
In just a few seconds, someone was jacking the tractor up to get the tire off. Someone else was running for the announcer’s booth to try to get him put later in the line-up. Two or three people are already calling around to see if one of their friends has a spare tire. A pickup truck pulls up a guy yells, “Get in, we are going to get you a new tire!” Steven hops in and off they go.
By the time they get back, the other guys had already gotten the tire off and ready for a new one. A group of people was standing there waiting to man handle this giant tire off the trailer. They maneuvered it around and got it on his Oliver. Steven hops on his tractor and races up to the pulls where he makes it just in time.
I just sat there dumbfounded, with a big lump in my throat holding back the tears. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like a NASCAR pit stop, it happened so fast. In what other competition would competitors help each other like that? Why would a whole group of guys we didn’t know spring in to action without being asked? Why would adults help a teenager with just an average pulling tractor?
Because they are farmers and that is what they do.
That day I decided that there were no hearts as big as those of farmers. Neighbors helping neighbors; lending equipment, lending a hand. Marrying into a farming family, I am constantly reminded of the kindness farmers show toward one another as well as the community.
One of the biggest things I have learned working at the conservation district is that most of our customers show the same compassion as we were shown that day at the tractor pulls. Through this year’s wet spring, failed crops, and prevented plant acres, many producers have worked together. They have shared cover crop seed, planted each other’s fields, and made sure all the livestock were fed. Why?
Because they are farmers and that is what they do.