The Indiana FFA Tractor Drive is more than just people getting together with a favorite tractor. It's beginning to be a family affair. This year one Johnson County family had three generations in the drive. The fourth was there to see off dad, grandpa and great- grandpa.
Great grandpa Bill Canary, Franklin, was near the front of the pack with his Oliver 550. His son, Charlie, and Charlie's son, John, drove Allis Chalmers tractors from the late '60s and early '70s, back when that unique orange color was still popular at dealerships across Indiana.
Before the tractor drive began. John's wife, Amanda, brought one-year old Charles to see the rest of the family off. The four posed for a four-generation shot in front of one of the bright orange Allis tractors. Then Charlie's wife, Becky, John's wife, Amanda, and John's sister, Emily, joined in to complete the family picture.
The fifth generation, Bill's dad, Paul, passed away more than a decade ago. In his 90s at the time, he had been a leader in raising Jersey cattle, and operating a diversified farm. Paul Canary was one of the early Master Farmers named by Indiana Prairie Farmer once the modern era of the program was revived. The program was restarted in 1968, and Paul was honored as a Master Farmer in 1970.
Nearly 200 farmers and honorary Master farmers have been honored in Indiana since the program, after a hiatus of more than 30 years, began again in 1968. Recipients are nominated by their peers, and the official award ceremony is in July.
Bill maintained the jersey herd for many years, and kept jersey heifers for show animals for sometime after they actually stopped milking. Today, Charlie and John farm together, and Bill is retired. They raise corn, soybeans, some wheat and hay and beef cattle.
Part-time outside jobs help both Charlie and Becky and John and Amanda earn livings. Charlie is a school bus driver and county councilman, now in his fourth term. Becky is a family and consumer sciences teacher at Whiteland Community High School. John is also employed off the farm.
Will farming still be an option when Charles is at the age to pick a career? The family certainly hopes so. The equipment he uses may be different. The orange Allis tractors may still be around for tractor drives. But equipment of a different color may be doing more of the actual work in the future some 20 years out. AGCO has announced that it is phasing out the orange paint of the AGCO ALLIS brand in a business decision later this year. The company will concentrate on other product line.
Congratulations to four generations of Canary's, who have maintained a family farming operation through ups and down in farming in the last 50 years.