John O’Meara writing on vintage tractors…

My first tractor was a 1952 Farmall H.

Simply and ruggedly designed, it is a bulletproof machine.

Developed in what was likely the height of simple American agricultural engineering, the H – and similar tractors – were built to last. You only need the minimum of tools and mechanical knowledge to work on them and it is easy to diagnose problems as they arise. Plus, they were manufactured in large numbers — so parts can still be easily found.

I’ve driven my little 65-year-old Farmall H nearly every day for 20 years. By farming with that simple, rugged, inexpensive tractor, I’ve made sure that I never have to meet the local loan officer at the bank.

It’s true that there are no bells and whistles with the Farmall H.

And it has only 27 horsepower. Many compact or subcompact tractors boast more than that.

However, the H was made for farming — not mowing the lawn. It has enough weight and power to run a small square baler and pull a two-bottom plow.

With a Farmall H and the right equipment, you can grow enough food for your family, some cash crops, and hay for livestock. All this with a simple machine that usually sells for between $500 and $1,800 depending on location and condition. It’s a boon of utility and self-sufficiency.

When I bought my first H, one neighbor said I should put that old thing in a parade and get a real tractor.

Instead, I purchased a John Deere sickle bar mower from a WWII vet for $50 and set about making hay. With an $80 side delivery rake added in, I made tens of thousands of bales of hay with that combination of old discarded pieces of equipment.

Focusing on old, simple, rugged, inexpensive machines limits the amount of risk involved in achieving self-sufficiency.

If something truly goes wrong with equipment like this it does not spell disaster. Tractor parts are readily available and there is a thriving online community devoted to helping the inexperienced and experienced alike get their old tractor back out plowing or baling hay.

Worst case scenario is it’s a collector’s item that will probably go up in value over the years.

In 1936, E.B White lamented the disappearance of the model T in an essay titled “Farewell, My Lovely.”

The T might be gone but the H lives on, making hay and warding off bankers well into another century.

If you’re looking to grow food or do any farming enterprise in a cheap, sustainable, low-impact manner, see if you can find a simple old rugged machine to keep you company.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

Image: ©iStock.com/vitranc

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