Once again we have Terry James guest posting on our blog to finish our series on the mechanization of prairie agriculture! Terry is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917. He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry. Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle. You can read Part 1 of this series here.
It is difficult to argue that one machine is more important than another on a farm as all are necessary, but for many years, the tractor was the machine that enabled the others to operate. The tractor began as a self-propelled steam engine, the “traction engine.” A pioneer in the manufacture of steam engines for farm use was a man by the name of J.I. Case. Early steam engines were used to provide power for the threshing machines, but were stationary. Case added wheels to some of his to make them easier to move and in 1876 he brought out a model was that suitable for pulling a plow. JI Case and the company he founded went on to manufacture many more tractors throughout the years and eventually merged with the International Harvest Company.
Another American entrepreneur was also very active at this time. In 1837 a young blacksmith name John Deere came up with the idea of using polished steel in a plow. His “self-scouring steel plow” was an almost instant success, and the company he founded continues to thrive today.