The weather was perfect for haying; dry and sunny, with a couple consecutive days beyond for drying the cut grass. But David Freeman had something else in mind for his 1958 Ford Workmaster tractor. He unhitched it in the morning and rode it in the Franklin County Farm Bureau (FCFB)’s Inaugural Tractor Ride, joining 21 other tractors for the June 25 event. And he still planned on haying that afternoon, despite the 30-mile ride back and forth from his hometown in Heath, MA to nearby the Hilltowns.
The ride raised money for the FCFB and the Franklin County 4-H who held their annual fair at the Heath Fairgrounds simultaneously as tractors and their owners convened before departing. Organizers plan to make the tractor ride a tradition.
Freeman has been a member of the Board of Directors for the FCFB for four or five years. The FCFB represents Franklin County farmers, dealing directly with the state’s nonprofit Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF).
The FCFB makes sure that “farmers are fairly represented. The Farm Bureau is the only voice that farmers have,” said Freeman. There are 25 farms alone in Heath. “It’s not just large animals, it represents bees or orchards, anything to do with agriculture,” said Freeman, including local regulations regarding farm-stands to conservation.
“We are the oldest Farm Bureau in the country,” said Liz Smith, administrative assistant for the Marlborough-based MFBF. They started in 1915 as an offshoot of the USDA, “as a way to educate farmers about what’s latest and greatest, a way to spread knowledge. We support all forms of agriculture across the state: harvesting oysters or cranberries, harvesting maple syrup, grass-fed beef, fruit and vegetable growers,” said Smith. “Not as regulatory arm, but a way for agriculture to come together. Once we lose that land to development, we don’t get it back.” She noted that there has been an uptake in the number of acres being farmed in Massachusetts as people want to know where their product is grown, taking care not increase their carbon footprint by having it trucked in.
FCFB president since 2012, Ashfield resident Lenny Roberts was present at the tractors’ takeoff and 4-H Fair, accompanied by board members, Leyden’s Warren Facey, who heralds 40 years as FCFB member, Bernardston’s Chris Coffin and South Deerfield’s Tim Viles.
“This is the first tractor ride for Franklin County, sponsored by the Franklin County Farm Bureau with support of 4-H. It’s all about young kids, getting them into farming and keeping old farmers in their farms,” said Roberts.
Duane Scranton of Windswept Valley Farm from Colrain, MA drove his tall diesel-powered 1970 John Deere tractor. A retired dairy farmer on 200 acres, he still works on the farm with his son Mark Scranton, who also rode in the tractor ride.
Some riders rode their tractors to the Heath starting point as they lived nearby. Kurt Benson of Foxbard Farms in Shelburne rode a 1980 John Deere tractor. He had previously ridden in tractor rides in Cummington and another sponsored by the Hampshire County Farm Bureau in Hadley.
Arnold John Egloff, best known as A.J., from Leyden drove an antique 1947 Farmall M. In pristine condition and gleaming red, it is retired, and kept in the garage out of the elements. He takes it out only for tractor rides or plowing on antique plow days. He has eight tractors, an assortment of John Deeres, Farmalls and Massey Fergusons, and uses “every one of them.”
Russell Glidden from Framingham trailered his 1951 Farmall H to Heath. He uses it about six times a year for Plow Days in Northfield, Orange and Connecticut. “I go down to exercise it,” he said. He has also ridden in the Cummington and Hadley tractor rides.
Riding on the tractor, “Brings me back to the old days, childhood days,” said Glidden, who is now retired. Though he has never owned a farm, he grew up on Waveney Farm, a dairy that raised Brown Swiss, as his father, who worked on the farm, was supplied housing for his family.
Spectator Prudence Wholey from Shelburne owns a 98 Ford tractor, but, “It’s too new for the tractor parade,” she said, as she gazed longingly at all the tractors before they departed on their ride. For more information about FCFB or MFBF, call 508-481-4766 or access www.mfbf.net .