Category Archives: Corn planters

The 1954 Farmall Super MTA from South Dakota

The 1954  Farmall Model Super MTA from South Dakota

by

Brian Wayne Wells

           This article remains under construction.  Periodically, new blocks of text will appear in the article and/or  current blocks of text will be corrected.

 

 

The Farmall M is the very popular tractor that has captured the affection of a great number of the collectors of International Harvester tractors.  However, a great number of devotees of the Farmall M, will probably admit that their favorite version of the M is that final iteration of the M series–the Super M-TA.  This was true in the family of the current author as both he and his brother–Mark Wells have longed since childhood to have a Super M-TA of their own.  The Wells family did not keep this desire to own a Farmall Super M-TA a secret from their friends and aquaintances–including Bill Radil.

Accordingly, when, in December of 2018, Bill Radil of Montgomery, Minnesota decided to sell the Super M-TA that he had owned for about eight years, he turned to the Wells family.  Bill informed Mark Wells that he offered to give the Wells family the first right of refusal on sale of the tractor.  Needless to say, there was no refusal.  Rather there was an immediate acceptance of the offer to sell the Farmall Super M-TA.  Indeed,  payment for the tractor was concluded before the end of the month. 

 

When purchased from Bill Radil the 1954 Super MTA was in its original unrestored condition.

 

Once the sale of the tractor was concluded, the current author instinctively began to research as much of the history of the tractor as he could research.  Bill Radil had owned the Super M-TA since about 2010.  While he did not have a great deal of information about the person who had sold the Super MTA to him, Bill did know the tractor had come from South Dakota.  

Because the tractor is a tricycle-style tractor it stands to reason that the tractor must have come from a row crop growing area of South Dakota.  The row crop growing area of South Dakota is located in the eastern part of the state.  The western part of South Dakota tends to be too dry and hot in during the summer to grow corn, soybeans and other row crops profitably,  This hot and dry climate of the western South Dakota is better suited to the raising of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley.   

 Indeed, the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas Oklahoma and Texas,  all states down to the Rio Grande River, through which the 100th meridian passes, are similarly divided by the 100th meridian.  To the west of the 100th meridian the climate tends to be  dry and hot in the summer–too hot and dry to be efficient for the raising of row crops like corn, soybeans and editable beans.  This makes the most of the area of west of the 100th meridian more suitable for raising for large scale (horizon to horizon) farming of cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley abound.  While to the east of the 100th meridian, the relatively abundant rain and rich soil tends to be more appropriate for the raising of row crops like corn and soybeans.  Indeed, the 100th meridian neatly divides the whole of North America into the row-crop Midwest on the east and the “horizon-to-horizon wheat-growing “Great Plains.”|

 

The 100th Meridian is regarded as the boundary between the Midwestern region of the United States from the drier and hotter Great Plains region.

Actually, in recent times many climate scientists have pointed  out that the modern day boundary between the row crop growing area of eastern South Dakota and the drier and hotter wheat growing area of western South Dakota has been moving far east of the 100th meridian because of climate change.

 

Climate scientists suggest that the actual climatalogical boundary between the Midwest and the Grain Plains of the United States has moved far east of the 100th Meridian. As the above map reveals, for South Dakota the climatological boundary may have already reached the western border of Minnesota.

 

There is very little actual historical information available on this particular M-TA tractor.  As noted above, we know the tractor came from South Dakota and, as reasoned above in this article, the tricycle format of the tractor indicates that it was intended for use on a row-crop farm, where the narrow front end of the tractor was designed for the cultivation of those row crops.  Accordingly, as discussed above in this article, the tractor would most likely have come from the eastern part of South Dakota–specifically east of the 100th meridian.  However, one of the leading corn producing counties in eastern South Dakota is Codington County. Codington County was an agricultural community typical of the eastern part of South Dakota.

 

Acounty map of South Dakota with Coddington County highlighted.

 

In 1940, Codington County was a mostly rural county with a population of 17,014.   The United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) had reported in their 1940 census that 91.7% of Coddington County land area was taken up by operating farms and there were 1,170 individual operating farms in Codington County.  The average size of an individual farm in Codington County was 346.7 acres.  During an average year in the pre-World War II era, Coddington County farmers usually planted 32,800 acres of the County’s arable land to corn.  

  Between, 1942 and 1945, however, World War II had caused substantial changes to farming in Codington County.  United States government purchasing of agricultural products to feed the troops in two theaters of war, tended to drive up prices of farm commodities to record high levels.  Farmers were encouraged to bring every single acre of their farms into arable production to support the war effort.  By 1945, although the total land area of the county under operating farms had increased to 95.1%, the number of operating farms in the county had decreased to 1,155 individuals farms.  This was a reflection of the fact that a great number of men and women were being drawn away from farming activities toward both the war itself and the industries in support of the war effort.  Also the average size of the the individual farm actually increased to 364.1 acres per farm.  Obviously, the war had caused a substantial consolidation of farming in Codington County.  Farms had been sold and merged with other farming operations resulting in larger individual farms.  One might have anticipated that trend toward consolidation would have continued in the post war era.  However the 1950, U.S.D.A. agricultural census revealed that the number of individual operating farms in Codington County had the percentage of land area in the county increased slightly to 95.5 %, the number of farms increased to 1,160 farms.  Furthermore, the average size of an operating farm in the county in 1950 fell to 360.2acres.  These last to facts seem to suggest that the consolidation trend of the war years had been reversed.  However, this reversal can probably be explained by the fact that many of the returning veterans of the Second World War were entering farming.  Most of these veterans would be taking over their parents home farms.  However, at least some were starting from scratch and having to purchase their own farms.  This would result in a larger number of farms for the period of time immediately following the Second World War. 

Just four (4) years later, 1954, the percentage of land in Codington County under agricultural production fell to 91.6%.  The number of individual farms in Codington County decreased to 1,078 operating farms and the average size of a farm in Codington County had grown to 375.9 acres.  The period from 1950 until 1953 was the period of United States involvement in the Korean War.  Just as with the Second World War, there was an increase in farm produce commodity prices with the coming of the war.  Although the Korean War was actually a military campaign carried out under the United Nations and although many nations sent contingents soldiers to defend South Korea, the United States had the large contingent of soldiers involved in the United Nations effort.  Additionally, the United States undertook to feed not just their own troops but rather fed the whole international contingent during the Korean War.  Once again the farm prices rose as the United States government purchased food products tofeed the troops in battle.           

The population of Coddington County as a whole had been 18,944 in the 1950 census.  This represented an increase in population of 11.3% from the pre-war, 1940, population figure of 17,014 noted above.  These figures indicate that a large number of returning veterans from World War II returned to Coddington County and established themselves in farming in the post war years.  Thus, when the Korean War came along they were well situated to take advantage of the increase in farm prices created by United States government spending in feeding the troops in Korea.  Indeed, as explained in another article on this website, called “Oliver Farming in Mower County, Minnesota (Part VI): The Korean War,” not only was the United States feeding their own troops in the Korean War, they were feeding the troops of 55 other nations around the world that had sent troops to Korea.  The whole United Nations armed contingent in that war consisted of 180,000 troops.    Therefore, the effect on the rising farm prices in the United States was more than one might have expected.  One of the farmers in Coddington County that felt the warm glow of the rising farm prices in 1950 was a particular farmer located in Coddington, County.     

Along the eastern edge of Coddington County are three (3) townships, running north to south.  Of these three townships, the center township is Waverly Township.  This township is the home of a particular diversified farming operation of a particular farmer–our Waverly Township farmer. 

 

A township map of Codington County shows three townships along the eastern boundary of the county.  The center township (here colored in orange) is Waverly Township.

 

Our Waverly Township farmer

The county seat and largest City in Codington County is Watertown (1950 pop. 12,699)  The population of Watertown had risen 19.6% from the 1940 population of 10,617.