SHERRILL, Iowa — Once the hum of the vacuum pump was quiet after morning chores, new sounds filled the air at the Smiths’ dairy farm Oct. 1 as the annual tractor pull began.
Roaring engines, flying dirt and a cheering crowd could be heard on the ridge while the cows grazed in pastures down the hill. The sun shone over the event as the temperatures reached to the mid-80s.
This year, the noise came to a stop as the Hawkeye Vintage Farm Machinery Club held a moment of silence for one of its members, Thomas “Tommy” Schmitt, who died from a tractor rollover accident at last year’s event.
“This pull was kind of in memory of him,” Adam Smith said. “His brother pulled the tractor that he had fixed up, and we raised quite a bit of money by selling raffles and can koozies.”
Adam and his father, Marvin, milk around 100 cows near Sherrill and are hosts for the tractor pull every year. The Hawkeye Vintage Farm Machinery Club offers nine events per year, with the Smiths’ being the last one on the schedule.
The event is catered by a local bar. Additionally, another local farmer brings his ice cream machine and accepts donations, which he then gives to a local family in need.
“He usually makes several hundred dollars doing that and just donates it back to somebody who’s having a hardship,” Adam said. “It’s pretty neat.”
This year, proceeds went to the family of Schmitt. There was also an additional fundraiser with raffle baskets.
The Smiths have been hosting a pull every year since 2011.
They sacrifice a hayfield for the occasion by spraying it off to allow room for the pulling track and spectator parking. Adam said they will plant corn on the field they are using this year and then move the event to a different field next year. The club manages a lot of the preparation by obtaining bleachers, portable toilets and garbage containers.
This year, there were 178 hooks in competition. Four winners from each weight class are selected. First- through third-place winners receive a plaque, and the fourth-place winner gets their money back. Weight classes range from 3,750 to 9,000 pounds.
Since the event is offered by an antique tractor club, all of the machines competing have to be at least 51 years old.
“There are some antiques that are souped up, but most of them are right out of the shed,” Marvin said.
Marvin competed in the event this year with a Farmall 400. It is the first tractor he owned; he paid $400 for it over 30 years ago. He has kept it fixed up and had it repainted in recent years.
Marvin’s grandfather moved to the farm in 1929. The previous dairy barn had burned, and when Marvin’s grandfather began milking the barn was only a couple years old. The same barn is still standing today, with 47 stanchions. Marvin and Adam switch out their 100 cows with the help of Adam’s brother, Alex.
All the bull calves are fed to finish on neighboring farms. Marvin and Adam raise their replacements. Most of the cattle are grazed due to the hilly structure of the land. Together, they farm around 180 acres.
Eventually they would like to construct a freestall barn and add a parlor to the existing barn. There is already a manure pit that does not get utilized because of where it sits.
Marvin has seen changes in the farm since he took over. They have grown internally from about 40 cows in 1989 to their current size. Marvin has continued to milk Holsteins after his dad switched the herd from Guernsey to Holstein when he took over from his father.
Adam is the fourth generation to farm full time. His parents own the farm, and he farms on a percentage with them. He said he enjoys the work.
“The schedule is not the same every day, and if you want to go do something, you don’t have to take off work,” Adam said. “It’s also a good reason to get up in the morning.”
Marvin said that hosting the tractor pull offers a nice variation to the demands of dairying. As a member of the club, he does his share of helping to pull the sled and running the blade tractors with the rest of them. While some of the members are relatively serious about pulling, it is mostly a social event for the community.
“We work together to get it done,” Marvin said. “Ours is always the grand finale.”
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