***This is a post I did for the Alltech blog, to try and win a scholorship to attend ACFC11. I didnt win but I like my post and thought I would share it!***
The moment I knew….
by Carrie Mess
I grew up in Madison WI, I’m not the proverbial “Farmer’s Daughter” I’m not even a farmer’s granddaughter. However I am and have always been an animal person. I was the little girl who tried to fix the birds after they flew into the picture window and dreamed of horses and was going to be a veterinarian someday. My grandmothers both had amazing flower and vegetable gardens and instilled a love of growing things from the earth. Little did any of us know how far those passions would take me.
This Whole Farming Thing
When I was twenty, I started dating the son of a dairy farmer. Being the animal lover still I enjoyed going to the farm and petting the calves and riding around on the fender of the tractor with my boyfriend….. As time went on and we got more serious, it came time for me to get off the fender and learn to drive the tractor and this is where my story starts.
My husband’s parents milk about 100 cows and grow crops for the cattle on about 300 acres of land. I can’t remember exactly why on this particular day they were short of help but they were and they were trying to make 3rd crop hay. My boyfriend had taught me how to drive some of the tractors so I was put to work running and unloading wagons of chopped hay into the bagger after a very brief tutorial. I thought I was pretty hot stuff, I knew how to put the PTO shaft on, I had about 4 hours of tractor driving under my belt, I’d be just fine. So I climb up on the old Case 930 and away I go to get my first wagon. Now if you have never drove a Case 930 let me tell you a little about this tractor. This one was built in the 60’s and like most 930 tractors that are still being used on the farm, this tractor had no brakes. Requiring a lot of preplanning of your next move, especially when pulling heavy wagons downhill while turning into the farm driveway. This 930 also had the seat from a Ford tractor on it, making the needed height to sit in the seat while pressing the clutch somewhere around 7’6”, I am 5’8”. Speaking of the clutch the 930 is known to have a heavy clutch, this means that the clutch takes a lot of force to push down all the way. This particular 930 had previously had work done on the clutch and now included the spring from a different tractor, which means an already difficult clutch now took at least 50lbs of force to depress it completely. So there I was, miss hot stuff, farm girl, tractor driver on the 930 built for a giant with a very difficult clutch and no brakes. Looking back I wonder if my boyfriend liked me very much.
Unloading into a bagger takes some skill. As the bag gets full the bagger moves forward and the tractor driver needs to keep the unloading apron lined up with the mouth of the bagger. Requiring a lot of paying attention and moving just a little ahead each time. On this particular day the bagger was set up going slightly uphill adding another degree of difficulty because you couldn’t just keep the tractor in neutral when not moving because there were no brakes to keep it from going backwards down the hill. So I spent the day riding the clutch of the 930 trying desperately to keep everything lined up and not spill any hay on the ground. By the end of the day my left leg was on fire, I was sunburned, and my boyfriends parents had heard several new and creative word combinations from me, even over the noise of the tractors. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!
You can see from the photo how this worked out for me. My husband and I are now building our own herd of dairy cattle and hope to be milking on our farm within the next year. My Grandma said to me recently that she had no idea where “this whole farming thing” came from, little does she know she all those days in the garden with her planted the seed that grew into my passion.