All were once familiar brand names on American farms. But, much like the auto industry, agricultural equipment manufacturers have folded under national and international competition or consolidated to better compete in the world market. For example, McCormick became International Harvester and, more recently, Case IH. Massey Ferguson and Allis-Chalmers are still available at some U.S. ag equipment dealers, along with names newer to the U.S., such as Krone and Kubota.
But at the Woodbury County Fair, which opened Wednesday at the fairgrounds in Moville, just two brand names dominate the large farm machinery on display: John Deere and Case IH.
Farmers looking over the equipment Wednesday morning had all kinds of reasons for favoring one brand over another. Most said they either "bled red" for Case IH or were "all green" fans of John Deere.
It may be a sad state of affairs for farmers who remember when there was more variety in the brands of tractors they could buy than in the brands of beer at their local grocery. For them, the fair offers 110 antique tractors.
For the others, well, there's mostly Case IH and John Deere to argue over.
A few farmers said it wasn't the brand, per se, that fuels their loyalty but the ease of getting service and parts when they need them. Unlike country crooner Kenny Chesney, not a single one of them mentioned that it matters whether their girlfriend thinks their tractor's sexy ... just as long as it's green. Or red.
Here is a sampling of opinions from the fair:
Bryce Sohn, Danbury, Iowa -- "I'm definitely green. I just think you get the parts quicker. There are a lot of dealerships, good service."
Tom Handke, Mapleton, Iowa -- "The resale is the best. It costs more, but you get more out of it and fewer problems. It's whatever a person thinks; you're either Deere or Case."
Eldon Cuthrell, Early, Iowa -- "I have two balers, a John Deere and a Vermeer. The John Deere was giving us trouble; I bought a Vermeer `cause it's supposed to be better for bailing corn stalks." He said the Vermeer can be run in reverse to unclog a jam, but a jam in a Deere must be dug out. "You go with whatever works. I don't wear John Deere shorts or Vermeer shorts. But some guys do."
Dennis Uhl, Sloan, Iowa -- "I had it beat into me," Uhl said of his father's own loyalty to Farmall, and then to Case IH. "I was brainwashed."
Paul Nelson, 12, Moville, Iowa -- "I drive an International Harvester 1026 Farmall. I like red tractors. When the green ones break down, it's kind of hard to fix `em up. You have to take the GPS off and stuff."
Marlin Groth, Moville, Iowa -- Groth is president of the Tri-State Antique Club; 10 of the 110 antique tractors on display at the fair belong to him, all are International Harvester or another forerunner of Case IH, including one bought new on July 11, 1935 by his great-grandfather. It was last owned by a neighbor of Groth, who told him years ago that he'd have to wait until he died to buy it. Sure enough, the man left a note about the tractor in his will. The neighbor's heirs recently came to Groth and offered him the right of first refusal to buy the tractor. They worked out a deal and Groth bought the tractor from the estate. "I rescued it about a month ago," he said.
Brand doesn't matter
Leo Groth, Moville, Iowa -- "If you get a good dealer, if you're satisfied with the dealer, stick by it."
Ray and Kathy Haafke, Bronson, Iowa -- "We kind of gravitate to orphans and oddballs," Kathy said of the couple's diverse collection of antique tractors. Now retired from farming, they brought six tractors to the fair, including a Minneapolis-Moline and a 1938 Graham-Bradley. They used both International Harvester and John Deere tractors on their farm, Ray said.