Right up front, I’m going to admit that I know diddly squat about farming — I can’t tell a cornfield from a minefield, nor a rake from a pitchfork — but at the same time, I think I understand what’s going on here.
Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.
Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.
“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show.
“There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.”
But why, you may ask, are farmers rejecting the New ‘N Improved Tractors, which come with all sorts of Gadgets And Software, Guaranteed To Make Life Easier For Farmers?
The other big draw of the older tractors is their lack of complex technology. Farmers prefer to fix what they can on the spot, or take it to their mechanic and not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars.
“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” Stock said.
There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.
In other words, tractors are becoming like today’s passenger cars: crammed with all sorts of shit that sound oh-so wonderful when listed under “Safety”, “Convenience” or “Efficiency”, but which have little actual utility and simply serve to drive the price of the fucking machine into the stratosphere faster than one of Elon Musk’s rockets, while making them more prone to failure — because as any fule know, as complexity increases, Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) shortens exponentially.
Wrenching the topic into an area which I know better than farming (and cars, for that matter): it’s the same reason I prefer a simple AK-47 to a tricked-out AR-15. The AR is finicky, has all manner of geegaws that can break and render the thing useless, whereas you can drive a truck over an AK and it will still continue to send bullets downrange into an 8″ kill zone.
So to all those farmers who prefer 1970s-era technology over 2019 technology in their tractors, I am very much a kindred spirit, because I prefer simple 1947 rifle technology over most of what has happened to semi-auto rifles since 2000.
And just as they’d rather spend $50,000 on an old, fixable warhorse than $150,000 on some prima donna luxo-trax made by Rolls Royce/IBM, I’d rather take the money I save on an AK and spend it on ammo.
Fuck this modern bullshit. Fuck it all to hell.