October 20, 2021

Antique tractors till East Homer field for Plow Day

Jamie L. Costa/staff reporter

Barry Harrington, Rick Sturdevant and Dennis MacDonald plow a cornfield Saturday with their antique tractors as part of Plow Day in East Homer. A record number of tractors showed up to plow Saturday after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19.

Dried corn stalks poked through acres of untilled land and wet soil Saturday as antique tractors plowed the field to mark the 15th annual Plow Day in East Homer off Route 13.

The tractors and their drivers tilled side by side over the vacant expanse as toddlers and adults dodged tractors and fresh soil to greet the farmers and eye the restored machines.

“There are between 15 and 20 tractors here this year which is the most we’ve ever had,” said Steve Reed, trustee of the East Homer United Methodist Church. “The community is very supportive — there are more people and tractors than ever before.”

The tractors have to be at least 50 years old, Reed said. Most of the tractors are from the 1950s and come from all over the region, being trailered in by out-of-towners or driven in by locals.

John Phelps, a member of the Tractors of Yesteryear club, has attended Plow Day every year, except last year when the event was canceled because of the pandemic, he said. He lives within walking distance of the fields and comes with his children and grandchildren.

“We were gonna do it last year but opted not to,” Phelps said. “This year, we thought it was a great idea and we were doing it no matter what.”

Several farmers own the farmland and once the fields are plowed, manure is spread and corn is planted, Reed said.

“Half or more of the tractors are members of Tractors of Yesteryear,” Phelps said. “We try to say they ought to be part of the group but we don’t turn anyone away that wants to participate.”

Barry Harrington of Fabius and Dennis MacDonald of Oriskany Falls went to college together in Connecticut where they became lifelong friends, Harrington said.

On Saturday, the retired farmers tilled next to each other. Antique tractor collecting is a shared passion of theirs.

This year, Harrington drove his red Farmall Super C tractor, built in 1953 and MacDonald drove his bluish-grey Ferguson 30 tractor, built in 1951.

“It takes about four to five hours for them to plow the whole field,” said Morgan Phelps, daughter of John Phelps, while driving through the farmland with her children to inventory the participants’ names. “It’s become kind of a family event.”

The event, which started at 9 a.m., had about 50% of the fields plowed by 11:30 a.m.

Onlookers are invited to the chicken barbecue and horse-drawn wagon rides. Funding accumulated from the event supports the church and the Albright Grange.