If you’ve spent any time driving around Chester County, then you’ve seen them on the side of the road: these spindly red machines that look exactly like what a five-year old would draw if you gave them some crayons and said, ‘draw me a tractor.’ That is, unless they’ve already been indoctrinated to think John Deere is where it’s at, the poor things.
When you see them, you may think, ‘Does that thing even run? And what’s it good for, anyway?’ The answer to the first question is, probably, and the second is that those McCormick Farmalls, built by International Harvester in the 1940s and 1950s, are some of the best for doing the style of market scale production you find here in the North Star garden. The wheel base, power, traction and maneuverability all fit very well into growing rows of vegetables on modest acreages.
At North Star we use a Farmall Super C. Keep your eye out next time you pass one of these on the road for the letter on the side of the casing: they range from A, the smallest, through B, BN, C, Super C, and H to M, a relatively hulking machine. There are other numbered series’ and smaller ‘cub’ models that IH put out, but most of the ones I’ve seen around have been from this lettered group that was produced between 1939 and 1955. That so many are still running today is a true testament to solid engineering and craftsmanship.
Our Super C is used for cultivating, bed forming and hilling potatoes and leeks. For many of the helpers here who handle the tractors, the Super C becomes their favorite. Something about the open cab and snarl when the engine gets going must tug at the five-year old in all of us who see it and think, ‘now that’s a tractor.’
Pictured: Our Farmall Super C cultivating a field just before we plant sweet potatoes