University City

Antique tractor show brings old machinery back to life

A 1911 steam engine operates a saw mill. Machines like this will be on display at the Stumptown Tractor Club Antique Tractor & Engine Show this weekend.
A 1911 steam engine operates a saw mill. Machines like this will be on display at the Stumptown Tractor Club Antique Tractor & Engine Show this weekend. COURTESY OF STUMPTOWN TRACTOR CLUB

Put away the tablets, laptops and video games this weekend and step back in time to see the marvels of early farm machinery up close at the Stumptown Tractor Club Antique Tractor & Engine Show.

The annual event, held at a new location this year – Hodges Farm on Rocky River Road – runs 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 and also features crafts, food, games and pumpkin-picking.

Machines at the show will include corn shredders, shingle mills, saw mills, steam engines and tractor pulls, with equipment dating from the 1900s to the 1960s.

Stumptown Tractor Club, a group of about 50 older-generation farmers, got the idea for the event shortly after forming the club in 1995. Its goal has always been to educate the public about the ingenuity of the machines that once helped work the farms during the first half of the last century.

“These are old farmers. They’ve been doing it a long time. They love the machines, and they want to educate the public about them,” said Connor Newman, farm operations manager at Hodges Farm. “They’re just basically trying to keep farming alive.”

Newman can relate. Hodges Farms, one of Charlotte’s last working farms, dates back 200 years, and each generation has struggled to keep the business alive and thriving. Some generations grew cotton. Others switched to dairy.

In the 1990s, Newman’s uncle, Frank Hodges, turned much of the farm’s focus to agritourism. He restored an old barn to serve as a wedding venue, invited charities to hold mud runs there and opened the 200 acres to festivals and educational field trips.

When Hodges died in April, Newman picked up where his uncle left off and plans to offer even more activities that fit under the agritourism model, such as educational programs that demonstrate farming techniques from the 18th and 19th centuries.

“A lot of these skills are still pertinent in today’s society and are going by the wayside,” said Newman, who brought in two honeybee hives last month to demonstrate how the pollinators serve his 2-acre pumpkin patch.

Joe Ferguson agrees. “We’re slowly losing the past,” said the 77-year-old vice president of the Stumptown Tractor Club. “Our goal is to teach young people the uses and the history of old machinery.”

Ask anyone who knows their tractors, like Ferguson, and they’ll tell you there’s a line drawn between those made before 1970 and those that came afterward.

After 1970, he said, motors got bigger and stronger, running on six or eight cylinders. Before than, engines were smaller, with fewer cylinders.

“They’re different altogether,” said Ferguson. “I’m an old man. I grew up on what they call a putt-putt John Deere.”

It’s the pop and sputter of an antique tractor that little boys can still emulate all these generations later, almost instinctively, as they scoot along the living room carpet on their knees with miniature toy tractors in their hands.

Now, Ferguson wants them to see the marvel of the real things up close. He thinks they’ll be just as captivated by them as he still remains to this day.

“I started driving a tractor when I was 6 years old,” he said. “I just like the sound of them. I like the use of them. I’m fascinated with them.”

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

Stumptown Tractor Club Antique Tractor & Engine Show will be held 9 a.m.- 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at Hodges Farm, 3900 Rocky River Road, Charlotte. Tickets are $5 per person and free for children younger than 12. Also, admission is free for seniors on Oct. 16.