Why we’re thankful (and why 2020 might not be a complete train wreck…).

Typically you’ll find lots of Thanksgiving day posts that talk about why we all come together, eat way more than we should, and remind ourselves why we love our families (or why we’re vacationing in Mexico next year).

This ain’t about that…because most of that won’t happen this year. Lots of Thanksgiving dinners may end up happening via Facetime or Zoom. Definitely not ideal.

I mean, let’s face it; it’s been a long, utterly ridiculous year. From pandemics to weird weather events that happen like once in a bajillion years, murder hornets, civil unrest in multiple countries and wildfires…this year is unlike any year we’ve ever seen.


This hasn’t been all bad. There have been some good things that have happened during this year that we can be thankful for. Let’s recap a few, shall we? Some of these are funny, some are poignant, and some are a mix of both. The main thing is that they all happened and they all helped us deal with the year we’ve had.

(A few of these were even meme-worthy!)

        • Beans haven’t been this high since July of 2014!

          12bucksoybeans Copy
          In a tough year, at least we’ve got this going for us right now…
        • Generally speaking, yields have been a fair bit higher than anybody predicted.
        • Amazingly enough, the stock market hit 30K for the first time in history!
        • We rallied around all of those small businesses that have sponsored our kids’ little league teams for years when they needed it most.
        • Lots of people HAVE beaten COVID-19, like the 103 year-old lady who celebrated by cracking open a Bud Light.
        • We went outside for stuff other than farming. Some of us rode bicycles for the first time in ages this summer.
        • Drive-in theaters ran out of parking spaces for the first time since the 70s! (Who EVER thought that would happen?)

          Drive Ins.fastandfurious2plus2
          Best movie of the year, I’m tellin’ ya…
        • Lots of businesses learned how to roll with the punches, and some even thrived! (A big shoutout to our Tractor Zoom auction partners here; for a lot of them, moving to an entirely online presence for their auctions was a huge leap of faith; we’re proud of all of you guys who made it work!)
        • Tiger King came out and completely redefined the concept of a dumpster fire. Somehow it got us all talking and took our minds off of everything for a minute.

          (No Steigers were harmed in the making of this meme.)
        • We learned to love and hate Zoom, and we all felt pretty stupid when our kids and younger siblings knew how to use it better than we did.
        • In response to that…we taught them how to play Monopoly and then enjoyed every second of dropping hotels on Park Place & Boardwalk, knowing that they were screwed when it was their turn next.
        • We put our phones down for a while and reconnected with our families.
        • We finally crossed a few more things off the Honey-Do list, much to the amazement of our spouses.
        • When we picked up our phones again, TikTok had happened. Farmers started dancing on camera for the amusement of others, we learned that bacon-wrapped Hot Pockets are amazing when you put ’em on the smoker, and a dude on a skateboard got us listening to Fleetwood Mac again.
        • We adopted animals in need of a companion, and found that the love we received was far greater.
        • We somehow figured out how to make drive-through birthday parties fun for our kids. We became heroes when we gave rolls of toilet paper away as party favors.
        • We learned that teachers have superpowers that we can’t even dream of having, and we’ve developed and entirely new level of respect for them.
        • We sat down for home cooked meals again – as a family.
        • We took a little more time helping our neighbors with things like planting and harvest, just because it was nice to spend time with them, and because we know darn well they’d do the same for us.
        • We picked up our phones again and reconnected with our friends who we hadn’t talked to in ages.
        • We still have land and animals, and our passion for taking care of both.
        • We learned to be more thankful for the little things, and suddenly the little things weren’t so little anymore.


        So what’s my point in all of this? In a normal year, most of this stuff wouldn’t have ever made a “good things that happened” list. Teaching your kids how to play Candy Land is cool and all, but in a normal year it wouldn’t likely have even cracked the top 100, y’know? Even though COVID-19 has temporarily changed the way we live our lives, maybe there are a few changes that were for the better. It’s made us look at little things a little differently, and hopefully appreciate them more.

        At Tractor Zoom and Iron Comps…one of the things that we’re most thankful for is YOU. For whatever part we play in your life, we’re grateful to be a part of it. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

        Lastly, this showed up in our Twitter feed today, and man alive, if there isn’t a better dude to psych you up for Thanksgiving…

        Channel your inner Matthew McConaughey (or @wes_nship), and have a happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Veterans Day 2020: What does it mean to be a veteran and a farmer?

DSC05739 CopyCourage is fear holding on a minute longer. -George S. Patton

Today, we take a moment to celebrate the veterans of our United States Armed Forces. This is something that we don’t take lightly at our office. Many of us have family who chose to serve our country and protect the freedoms we hold so dear.

However, this goes way beyond our own families and friends. Many of our Tractor Zoom users and Iron Comps customers are veterans, and we recognize them as well.

There’s definitely a connection between farming and military service, too.  As farming is a way of life – an identity, if you will, so is military service. Neither are easy occupations, yet for so many young men and women who choose to serve our country, it’s a very natural decision. Their granddad served, Dad served, and now it’s their turn. Oftentimes, the sense of duty is as much a part of their upbringing as the land the family farms.

But what happens when veterans come home?

For some, it’s as simple as climbing back into the tractor. For many others, though, it’s not. With the median age of American farmers being near 60, they’re starting to retire, but young farmers aren’t taking their place.  The number of entry level farmers has fallen by 30% in the past 30 years, and at this point, less than 1% of the population consider themselves full-time farmers.

Thus, the demand for farm hands isn’t as big as it once was, and with bankruptcies on the rise, there simply aren’t as many farms out there to go and work for.

Fortunately, there are a lot of programs that can lend assistance to veterans transitioning into civilian life. We’ve included a short list of places to start at the bottom of this post. Additionally, there are dozens more that provide real-deal hands-on training for every aspect of farm management too. Click here to read an article that takes a deeper look at what’s available. 

But, even for those veterans who are able to come back to a farming operation, it’s not always an easy transition back to civilian life. I’ve heard more than one of my soldier buddies talk about dealing with survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and all that goes along with that. The memories of what happened while they were serving don’t go away. While it’s probably possible to muffle it all when you’re feeding cattle, it’s harder to do it when you’re sitting in the cab of a tractor dragging a grain cart for 15 hours a day. A lot of farming is done in solitary. Thoughts can spiral out of control in situations like that.

On Monday, I met a veteran farmer who lives northwest of Toronto with one of those “spiraling out of control” stories (one of his cows literally saved him from taking his own life – read the whole story here). During the course of our conversation, he told me that one of the things that helped him the most was knowing that he had cows relying on him. He felt that they gave him purpose. He said, “Y’know, I really appreciated the way those cows always listened…”

I’m not trying to paint a depressing picture, folks. Truly, I’m not. I had intended this post to be a humble thank-you to the soldiers who have chosen to protect the freedoms we hold so dear. And while I still think it is, there is still a dark side that doesn’t get talked about enough. The stigma around mental health amongst soldiers and farmers is alarmingly similar…and nobody talks about it.

There is help available.

There are a lot of resources out there for mental health (I’ve included some below); however, one of the most important things you can do for a veteran farmer is to simply reach out to them. Chat up the guy who’s just getting started now that he’s home. Thank him for his service. Ask how he’s doing…and mean it when you ask.

At the end of the day, farmers going through tough times – veteran or not – just need someone to listen.

If this post makes you pick up the phone and check in on the veteran farmer down the road who you know had to sell part of his herd, maybe that helps him feel less alone. I’m confident that that connection you made is a far greater thank-you to all of our veterans than anything more that I could say.

Resources for Veterans:

Farmer Veteran Coalition: With over 20,000 veterans nationwide, FVC is the largest non-profit organization  in the US; their primary goal is helping vets get into ag-based careers. Membership is free, and comes with access to exclusive discounts from equipment suppliers and ag service providers.

Battleground to Breaking Ground: A Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service project, Battleground to Breaking Ground is built to enhance sustainability and increase the number of farms and ranches throughout the US. They offer a 3-phase training program that provides hands-on training and planning specifically geared towards veterans.

Veterans to Farmers: Headquartered in Colorado, Veterans to Farmers trains and mentors veterans, presenting them with an opportunity for “Second Service” – contributing to food insecurity at the local level. VTF is about to enter its 7th year training veterans in 2021.

Mission Continues: Based in St. Louis, Mission Continues is empowering veterans to continue their service in communities lacking in resources, putting their talents to work generating visible impact in the communities they serve.

Farmer Angel Network: Founded by a Wisconsin dairy farmer who’d just lost a farmer friend to suicide, FAN provides resources and promotes awareness for suicide in the agricultural field specifically in SW Wisconsin. They’re currently in sort of an infancy stage right now and don’t have a website built. The link will take you to their Facebook page.

Mission22: Mission22 is dedicated to healing veterans when they need it – right now. Through three major initiatives – funding treatment for PTSD & TBI, creating large-scale public memorials honoring veterans, and bringing awareness to veteran issues.

Honoring our veteran family members.

Colonel Ralph Orey US Marines
Colonel Ralph Orey
United States Marines
Corporal Darrell Bennigsdorf Marines
Corporal Darrell Bennigsdorf
United States Marines
Kenneth Hansen Air Force
Kenneth Hansen
United States Air Force
Lt Commander Doug Thompson US Navy
Lt. Commander Doug Thompson
United States Navy
Major Gavin Sandvig Iowa Army National Guard 3
Major Gavin Sandvig
Iowa Army National Guard

Finally, as a token of thanks, we’d like to offer our veteran farmers a 30% discount off of their first year of Iron Comps Insights. Use code ‘VETERAN’ at checkout. (We’d ask that you use this code on your honor. Please don’t steal valor.)



Jerry’s IH 1256 Wheatland: The Cover Girl!

IH 1256 Wheatland
This beautiful IH 1256 has been seen more than nearly any other tractor that’s ever been listed on Tractor Zoom! Now is your chance to own it! Click the photo to see the details and a link to bid!

There’s something about the proportions of the IH 1256 Wheatland that just looks “right” to me. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the curvy wide fenders that I really love. Since this auction has gone live, I’ve had a few people ask me what I would choose to own if I could only have one tractor out of Jerry Mez’s Farmall Land collection.

The answer?

This one. Man, I love this 1256.

IH was riding high on a wave of popularity with the 1206 that they’d released a few years previous. They’d been extraordinarily good sellers, and IH wanted to keep the momentum rolling into the future. So, in 1967, they released the 1256. The list of improvements wasn’t super-long, but it there was one pretty noteworthy item.

The most major improvement was to the motor. The power rating went up by 4 horsepower. That might not seem like much,  but when coupled with the increase in cubic inches in the motor (361 in the 12-oh vs. 407 in the 1256), that was a pretty big deal. The bigger DT407 motor had more grunt in the low end. At the end of the day, that meant that the 1256 would be more likely to power through when the going got tough. In contrast, when running a 1206 in the same ground, you’d have probably found yourself pulling the T/A to get through it. IHC’s engineers set out to provide more useful power, and they accomplished that goal quite nicely!

Overall, the 1256 sold well. IH produced 7125 of them in total (including the Farmall-branded models) between 1967-1969. Jerry’s tractor is an early 1967 model, and it’s been very nicely restored. It’s a true Wheatland as far as I can tell, although there were a bunch of different option packages on these tractors. This one does have a T/A, a PTO, and 2 Hydraulic lines out the back, but no 3-point hitch. Collectors will argue until the cows come home about whether or not that’s a “true” Wheatland model, but I’m with Jerry on this one. He says it’s a Wheatland. I do too.

So why did I call this one “The Cover Girl”? Well, that’s because I’m not the only one with an affinity for this tractor. This exact tractor was Lee Klancher’s pick for the cover photo of the latest edition of Octane Press’s Red Tractors book! (Lee is an incredibly talented photographer and author. The things that guy can do with a camera will blow your mind! The Red Tractors series of books were/are his brainchild, and if you don’t already have ’em, you need to put them on your list.)

The 1256 on the cover? You’ve got a chance to bid on it! (Click the photo to pick up a copy of this book for yourself; I guarantee that you’ll be glad you did.)

My friend Ken Girard at Girard Auctions is handling Jerry & Joyce’s auctions, and thus far, the response has been pretty good on this tractor. Bidding currently sits at about $6,000 but that won’t stay that way for long. The auction doesn’t close until November 9, and my guess is that we’ll go north of $20K by the time the hammer drops.

If you’d like to see all of the tractors on the first Farmall Land auction, click here!


Side story: There’s one particular 1256 that’s not quite like the rest of ’em, and my friends at Heritage Iron spent some time talking with the man who made it a little different. Jon Kinzenbaw, the man who repowered all of those John Deeres with Detroits? Well, he only did ONE red one like that…a 1256 that was originally from mid-Missouri. Here’s the video…

Now, before all of you purists start sending me (or Sherry) any hate mail about wrecking a perfectly good 1256 with a loud, obnoxious Detroit…this one wasn’t a perfectly good one when Jon got his hands on it. As I understand it, the tractor had been burned in a fire and it was destined to be melted down for scrap. For lack of a better term, he resurrected it! Pretty cool! Makes 238 horse on the dyno, too!

BTW, if you’re looking for a more complete history on the 1256, Heritage Iron had one in issue #31. I believe is still available as either a back issue or a reprint!

Reverse Engineering: The Farmall BN forklift

This week’s Interesting Iron is a tractor that took “reverse engineering” quite literally, and became a Farmall BN forklift! It sells on Saturday, October 10, 2020 in SW Michigan! Click the photo to see the auction listing! Click the photo to see the details and a bunch of photos!

Weird things come from Michigan. I’m from Michigan, so this should come as no to surprise to any of you. At the same time, though, amazing things also come from Michigan! This little Farmall BN forklift is where those three circles intersect!

(See below for a highly scientific representation of this relationship.) ?


Honestly, these little forklifts aren’t all that weird. Like most products, they were developed to meet an emerging need. In this case, fruit and vegetable growers in West Michigan needed a small, highly maneuverable forklift for loading wooden boxes on trucks out of the fields and orchards.

Here’s a panorama from the back of my family’s farm. Those apple boxes are about 40″ tall, for frame of reference. They weigh nearly a thousand pounds when they’re full (they’re empty in this photo)!

Enter John Syzmanski (I think I got his name spelled right, but don’t hold me to it – information is a little sparse on with some of this stuff), and his company, John’s Manufacturing. The company was located just east of South Haven, MI and they literally “reverse engineered” and turned them into forklifts during the 60s and 70s. I’ve been told that they started with Allis Chalmers WDs, but later learned that it was lot easier to reverse a Farmall than anything else.  From an internals perspective, all you’d need to do is crack the rear axle open, flip-flop the ring gear and carrier assembly, and put it back together. Once the innerds were reversed, John’s would essentially rotate the driver’s position 180°. This put the seat on top of the gas tank, and all of the controls basically sticking out of the back of the platform.

John’s built these in both narrow-front as well as wide-front models. Options included 8, 10, and 14-foot masts, with the bigger models having a bit more lifting capacity. They’re pretty darn handy, and they work great for moving 1000 lb. apple boxes around, too! We actually have an identical Farmall BN forklift on our farm to use in the orchard. I don’t know if we bought it new or not, but I know we’ve had it since the mid-late 70s…maybe earlier. We still use it all the time, too! This particular tractor lived on a South Haven blueberry farm, and it’s in a LOT better shape than ours.

This is a better photo of one of our apple boxes. We don’t paint the apple on all of ’em, but this one looks pretty nice, huh?

John’s Manufacturing converted somewhere in the neighborhood of 2200 of these, give or take a few. Most of them were BNs, and the narrow-front tractors are a fair bit less common than the wide-fronts. It’s often said that it’s hard to find small Farmalls in West Michigan because John’s bought them all and converted them! Here’s the craziest thing, though. There’s a ton of them that are still in active service!

Because of that, they don’t change hands very often either; I’d be surprised if any have been up for auction in the past 5 years! As I’m writing this right now, the bid is sitting at $1100, but I’d be surprised if this doesn’t sell for somewhere between $4-6000 when the hammer falls! There’s still about 2 days left on this auction, so it’ll be fun to see where it ends up.

(Incidentally, that whole ring gear flip would be a hilarious practical joke to play on a buddy with an old tractor; you didn’t hear that from me, but if you do it, I want to see video.)?

Do you know what YOUR equipment is worth?