Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township (Part 2 of 2 parts):
The 1944 Farmall Model H Tractor
Brian Wayne Wells
As noted, previously, Butternut Valley Township is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (See the first article in this series called “Soybean Farming in Butternut Valley Township [Part 1]” also published in the blog section of this website.) Also, as previously noted, in 1942 Butternut Valley Township was the home of a particular diversified 160 acre family farming operation. Our Butternut Valley Township farer and his wife had lived on this farm since they were married in 1919. As a diversified farming operation, he and his wife milked a Holstein dairy herd, raised pigs and had a chicken flock. They sold milk and eggs off the farm for regular income. Each summer they marketed the pigs they had raised to provide cash income in the summer. In the fields, they raised oats and hay. Originally the oats were raised to feed their horses as well as their chickens and the hay was used to feed both the cows and the horses.
Since obtaining a “used” 1929 Farmall Regular tricycle-style tractor in 1937, he had greatly reduced the number of horses his farm. Thus, he had been able to reduce the number of acres planted to oats and hay each year. The largest crop on the farm was corn. Part of the corn crop was cut in August each year, while it was still green. This corn was then fed into the silo filler and blown into the silo which stood next to the barn. The silage in the silo would be used all winter to feed the dairy herd. The remaining corn would be picked in the late autumn and the ears of corn would be stored in the corn crib. Part of this corn would be shelled and saved to fatten the pigs for market. The rest of the corn would be sold to provide cash income in the winter. Consequently, the corn was a cash crop as well as source of animal food.
Since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941, a new market for plastics had arisen. Soybeans was the main raw product used in making plastics. Accordingly, since 1941,. the market price for soybeans had been soaring. Because he now planted less acres in hay and oats, our Butternut Valley Township farmer decided to plant that extra acreage to soybeans in the spring of 1942. The growing season of 1942 was almost perfect. Both soybeans and corn were bumper crops. Furthermore, the price of these two farm products rose to high levels. Consequently, our Butternut Valley Township farmer had one of his best years in terms of farm income. As a result, he seriously think about upgrading his farming operation by trading the old 1929 Farmall Regular in on the purchase of a new modern farm tractor.
After selling his corn, our Butternut Valley Township farmer was able to pay off all his debts and find that he still had a comfortable balance of funds in the bank. As a result, he again visited the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership. He had heard rumors that more Famall H’s with rubber tires were starting to be manufactured, again, due to the fact that more rubber was starting to be released by the government for civilian production. This time he told the staff at the Fesenmaier dealership to place his name on the list for a rubber-tired Farmall H. However, he told them he only wanted a Farmall H with rubber tires, electric starting and hydraulics. He needed the new tractor now more than ever before.
In the spring of 1943, our Butternut Valley Township farmer increased the amount of acreage he planted to soybeans. He kept waiting for his Farmall H to arrive at the Fesenmaier Hardware dealership. However, very few Farmall Model H tractors arrived at the dealership in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1943 because the manufacturing capacity of the International Harvester Company was still being dominated by government-military contacts. By 1943, ⅔ or 66.6% of the Company’s sales contracts were for military hardware. (Barbara Marsh, A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester p. 71.) Consequently, production of farm tractors by the IHC declined even more. Although already greatly curtailed, production of the Farmall Model H fell off by another 6% in 1943 when compared with the previous year. Rubber pneumatic tires for the Farmall H had been almost totally unavailable since July of 1942. However, starting in July of 1943 rubber tires for the Farmall H started to become available again on a limited basis. (Guy Fay and Andy Kraushaar, Farmall Letter Series Tractors [MBI Publishing Co.: Osceola, Wisconsin, 1998] p. 73.) Thus, the rumors that our Butternut Valley Township farmer had heard in the early spring of 1943, that rubber tires were once again becoming available for Farmall tractors, proved to be a bit premature. Continue reading Soybean Farming in Butternut Township (Part 2 of 2parts)