Tractors from several different decades rolled out one after the other from the Johnson County fairgrounds in Franklin on a sunny Saturday recently. It was the start of the second annual Indiana FFA Foundation-sponsored FFA tractor drive. About 20 tractors, many of them classics from the past, rolled across more than 40 miles of state and county highways in the area.
The first drive a year ago featured a trek from the Indiana State Fairgrounds to the Indiana FFA Center. This year's drive began and ended in Franklin, with a stop at the Indiana FFA Center in Trafalgar at mid-day. The tractors were greeted by more than 100 Indiana FFA members in blue jackets as they arrived at the Center. The students were there for the weekend, developing leadership skills through an Indiana FFA camping program called Made For Excellence. It's s the second year for this particular camp, featuring outside motivational speakers and discussion leaders whose task is to fire up FFA members who want to be leaders in their own chapters and communities across Indiana. One year ago, this particular Made for Excellence program was held away from the Center, at Lebanon.
Sunny skies but cold temperatures greeted the tractor ride drivers this year. Yet to a person, they declared it was an enjoyable experience and a worthwhile event. Brian Buchanan, Indiana FFA Foundation executive director, noted that this year's event turned a profit for the Foundation, thanks in part to outside sponsorship. Indiana Prairie Farmer was a contributing sponsor for the event for the second straight year. Other sponsors included Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, and the Indiana Horse Council.
Dick Kruse, an Indianapolis businessman who owns farmland and keeps a shed full of older tractors near Crawfordsville, drove for the second time. He also provided an Allis-Chalmers 1967 model 180 tractor for Indiana Prairie Farmer's own Tom Bechman to drive.
Other outstanding entries including a sharp, restored IF Farmall 3000 utility tractor, owned and driven by Bill Tyner. The low-slung versions of the IH 300 are fairly rare these days. The original model featured the exhaust exiting under the tractor, gaining more clearance for operation in low-ceiling buildings. Tyner's restored model currently features a muffler, since a previous owner changed how the exhaust exited the tractor.
Also riding through the countryside was a Farmall 300 row-crop, propane-powered tractor driven by Charlie Canary, Franklin. He and his son, John, himself in the ride, driving an Allis-Chalmers 220 without cab, reworked the country and put it in good working order. It originally belonged to and was used by John's grandfather.
His other grandfather, Bill Canary, drives an Oliver 550 utility, repainted and in sharp condition. Bringing up the rear of the caravan of tractors was Tim Newcomb, driving a John Deere. It was Newcomb who originally dreamed up the idea for the ride.
"We wanted to try a different way to raise money and visibility for the Indiana FFA Foundation," Newcomb says. Plans are already underway for the third annual Indiana FFA Tractor Drive next year. The Indiana FFA will also sponsor its second annual motorcycle ride this fall.