Press-Republican

Columns

June 26, 2011

Farm machinery rules the road

If you have taken a drive through the North Country lately, you will have noticed that farmers everywhere have been taking advantage of the recent period of nice weather. The majority of corn fields have finally been plowed and planted, and fields of alfalfa and hay have seemingly been harvested overnight.

The rate at which a modern farmer can plow, plant and harvest has been increased greatly by technological advancements in the farm machinery required. As the size and scale of local farms has increased, the equipment needed to do the work in a timely manner has also increased in size and capacity.

It is hard to imagine, but in the past 75 years, farms have transitioned from horses and small gasoline tractors to immense four-wheel-drive articulated tractors that can do many times the work producing more crops, in less time, using fewer inputs than ever before.

In the 1940s, my father grew up on a local dairy farm and remembers still using horses to mow and rake hay, pull wagons and do routine chores. Much of the powered equipment in use back then such as hay balers and corn choppers were not pulled into the field, but remained stationary, with the crops being brought to the machine for processing.

Gradually over the following decades, farm machinery evolved into what we see today. And while old tractors and machinery can be maintained and many continue to be used even today, there have been many improvements made which have made most old tractors obsolete.

Farm safety has been a concern for many years. Agriculture in the United States is one of the most hazardous industries, only surpassed by mining and construction. Older tractors and farm machinery had few or no provisions for safety. Often tall and narrow, older tractors had a higher center of gravity and were more likely to tip or flip over.

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