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CCFB News» May 2021

Downwind"The Iconic Tractor"

05/01/2021 @ 10:05 am | By Bob Rohrer CAE, FBCM, Manager

In the early 1900s, the development and the adoption of the tractor began to influence United States farmers and their production practices. Now, over a century later, we know the tractor effectively revolutionized farming, becoming an essential tool to help manage a volume of farm labor needs. And, in the process, the tractor also became an iconic part of the identity of the farm and the individual farmers that use them.


Red or Green?


This question likely means nothing to a non-farmer. However, to today’s farmer, it usually brings an immediate passion-filled reaction full of strong opinion.


The question is really a shortened version of, “What is the favorite color of your farm tractor?” The answer is either the “Red” Case IH (or Massey Ferguson) or the “Green” John Deere. These brands are the most prevalent across the country. Of course, there are other brands of tractors that feature a variety of colors including blue, yellow, orange, white, and other shades of green and red.


At the recent Young Leader exchange held between Cook County Farm Bureau and Wake County Farm Bureau Young farmers, we used this question as an icebreaker. One of the young leaders from North Carolina indicated that his favorite tractor was actually more “rust” colored. I can relate to rust-colored tractors. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Rohrer family farmed with “antiques” for many years.


When I was growing up, the Rohrer family farm had an eclectic collection of tractors of various brands, sizes, and colors. Probably the most dominant brand was the red Massey Ferguson but there were many other tractor colors that made appearances.


My first tractor driving experience at age eight was on a red International 350 loader tractor (That was the tractor in which I could not fully depress the clutch. Consequently, I couldn’t stop the tractor and ran through a fence that first time driving it). Many tractors came and went through the years depending on farm needs and upgrades made by The Farmer.


Other tractors I recall include:

  • The yellow Minneapolis Moline 5 Star tractor; it was the only liquid petroleum fueled tractor we had on the farm
  • The dark green Oliver 1850, the first diesel tractor I remember driving
  • The orange Allis Chalmers 750, the shiniest and newest tractor to appear during my childhood
  • The red Farmall 450 and the dark green Oliver 77 – narrow front “row crop” tractors that were not my favorites
  • A yellow Case 567 CK with a front loader and backhoe that I used frequently on the hog farm
  • The small blue Japanese Satoh Beaver tractor we used for running Power Take Off for the grain augers and field waterway mowing
  • The red (rust colored) Massey Ferguson Super 90, one of my favorite tractors which was also one of the first tractors my grandfather owned
  • The red Massey Ferguson 1130 and red Massey Ferguson 1150; I blame the MF 1150 on my loss of hearing (not the loud rock music that I used to listen to)
  • From the John Deere camp, the green John Deere 4020; I fondly remember using this tractor throughout high school as the chore tractor. There was also the narrow front green John Deere 4010, but it did not have the power shift transmission that I favored.
  • The silver White 4-150 – My grandfather’s first four-wheel-drive tractor which I would use during fall to pull a chisel plow during the midnight shift when the farm ground was cold enough to freeze


Over the years, many tractor colors have disappeared as tractor manufacturers merged with other tractor manufacturers and brands merged with other brands. I feel extremely fortunate to have driven and used so many different of tractor colors during my life.


I can’t just pick one color… my favorite tractor color is plaid.

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