Weather Forecast


Farmers gather for good old plowing bee

JONI HARMS/DAILY GLOBE Farmers Dave Gonnerman (from left), Fred Hellinga, Calvin Harms and Randy Johnson work to plow a field outside of Harris, Iowa, Saturday afternoon. Nearly a dozen area farmers took part in the event.

HARRIS, Iowa -- Driving their old tractors out of the machine shed, digging the moldboard plows out of the grove and putting them to work led to an enjoyable stroll down memory lane -- or in this case, an old-fashioned Plowing Bee -- in a rural Harris, Iowa, farm field Saturday afternoon.

Local farmer Calvin Harms hosted the event after talking with friends about putting the area's old tractors to work. The community has long hosted an antique tractor drive in the summer, and many of the farmers show their spruced-up tractors in parades. There's rarely an event, however, to showcase just what the workhorses of the days gone by can do.

That all changed on Saturday, when the skies parted and the sun shone on nearly a dozen tractors and the two-, three- and four-bottom plows they pulled through a harvested corn field just outside of Harris.

John Deeres, Internationals, Cases and even an Allis Chalmers showed up with their drivers to take part in the event, which Harms hopes can be repeated again sometime.

"This was a perfect year for it," he said, adding that many farmers were done with their harvest and had time for a little end-of-the-season fun. Farmers showed up from Harris and the surrounding communities of Ocheyedan, Lake Park and Milford for the event.

In all, there were about 10 antique plows used during the event, including a few old models that still utilized a mechanical lift.

"You'd trip and rope and the plow would drop into the ground," Harms explained. "You'd go across the whole field and then pull the rope. It would catch on the wheel and would pull the whole plow back up."

Newer moldboard plows had a hydraulic cylinder, he added.

Many of the plows from days gone by have long been dismantled and sold as scrap iron, but Harms still had one sitting in his grove -- as did some of the other farmers.

"I messed around with it for about a week, trying to get it working," he said of the two-bottom John Deere model.

"We had a couple that had been pulled out of the groves -- they might have sat there 20 years or more," Harms said.

Some of the farmers did a bit of plowing with the antique implements on their own farm prior to Saturday's event to get the plow "scoured" and ready for work. Scouring is getting the blades shined up, through use, so that the dirt no longer sticks to the plow blades.

"I had one that wasn't working the best yet, but it was a lot of fun," Harms said. "Seeing four or five tractors coming down the field at one time, it was pretty awesome doing that."

Randy Johnson, one of the farmers who participated in the plowing bee, said he'd like to do something similar every year.

"The plow I was running most of the time was a two-bottom plow and an old Farmall tractor," Johnson said. "Everybody that was there had plowed at one time in their life, but some of those guys hadn't plowed for 30 years."

Johnson used a plow that had to be cut out of the trees in Harms' grove.

"Some of those guys had heirlooms out there," Johnson added. "It was a lot of fun. I hope to do it again."

"To me, it was just neat to see some of these guys who enjoy using their antique stuff -- they were all very grateful to have an opportunity to use it," Harms said.

"I'm sure for many people it brings back memories of when they were children," he added.

The plowing bee started shortly after noon on Saturday and continued until they saw flashes of lightning and a darkening sky. By the end of the day, Harms estimated they'd plowed nearly 30 acres.

"We only lost one billfold," he added with a laugh.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330