Wheat field harvest uses vintage equipment

Aficionados of old farm equipment get together in Westlock, Alta., to take off a crop the way it was done in the old days

The Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club in Westlock, Alta., plants a small field of wheat every year on the Westlock and District Ag Society grounds.

In the fall, a portion of the crop is harvested with a binder and two loads of bundles are stored for the harvest demonstration at the show the following year. 

This year, the 29th annual show, like other major events across the country, had to be cancelled because of COVID-19. That left the two loads of wheat bundles unthreshed, and a field of wheat to harvest, hopefully for a show next year. 

On Sept. 29, this year’s wheat was harvested using equipment owned by the museum and private individuals.

Show chair Phil Colbourne hooked his 1939 Super 101 Massey-Harris tractor to the museum’s eight-foot cut John Deere power binder, and with club president Art Purdy operating the tractor and Colbourne on the binder, cut part of the crop to produce bundles for next year’s show. Club treasurer Brent Sterling operated his later model 45 John Deere combine with a 10-foot straight-cut header to harvest another portion of the crop. Sterling bought the combine at a farm auction several years ago, so he doesn’t know its history, but the 45 was manufactured from the late 1950s to the beginning of the 1970s. Sterling’s is a later model, including power steering.

Meanwhile, member Wayne Forbes brought his Massey-Harris 22-inch cylinder threshing machine out, and powered by the late Glen Kine’s 44 Massey-Harris tractor, threshed the two wagon loads of the 2019 wheat harvest, with other members pitching in to get the grain threshed. The emptied wagons were loaded with fresh 2020 crop bundles, and if a show can be held next June, will be threshed at that time.

The Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club was formed in early 1991 by local John Deere dealer Albert Miller and area farmer Bernard Wiese.

Miller, who was the club’s president and wrote its monthly newsletter, had said the club was intended to promote the preservation and restoration of older and antique farm machinery and equipment. 

Local and retired farmers joined, and the group quickly expanded. Their efforts led to increased interest and the formation of the Canadian Tractor Museum in Westlock, where older tractors and machines are on display.

The space in the museum is filled to capacity with tractors and machines, plus other memories of agriculture. Some tractors and equipment are on loan and some has been donated.

A second building was erected this summer to house a collection of small stationary engines donated by the estate of Ernie Wood Sr., plus other agriculture equipment.

The museum has had visitors from around the world. While the club and the museum remain separate entities, the two are closely associated, with several members from the club also serving on the board of the museum association.  

The club organizes a tractor and machinery show on the first weekend of June, which includes members and others bringing their tractors and machines for display, a tractor and machinery parade, plus tractor pulls, slow races, barrel race, blind driving skills, and old-time threshing demonstrations.

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