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Agriculture Today

Youth gives new life to old tractors

Youth gives new life to old tractors
Hondo FFA member Colin Graff takes time out to inspect the 1937 John Deere Model B tractor that earned him several honors in 2010, including a national reserve title.

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Wilson County News
May 4, 2011
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Colin Graff wins national reserve title

One young man’s interest in old tractors has paid off with national recognition.

While animal exhibits dominate stock shows, some students compete in an area known as agricultural mechanics. For a Hondo FFA student who entered his tractor restoration project in major Texas shows in 2010, his hard work paid off, when his restoration project was selected as one of 12 to compete at the national level. Colin Graff’s tractor restoration project earned him reserve champion honors and a $3,000 scholarship.

In 2001, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo added agricultural mechanics competition to its lineup. The Wilson County show also promotes ag mechanics, as does Nixon-Smiley.

Colin, the son of Ken and Laurie Graff of Hondo, was one of eight Texas FFA members selected to participate in the 2010 Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. With sponsorship from the Noll family of Falls City, his workbook, detailing all his work to restore a 1937 John Deere tractor, led him to earn the honors at the national show sponsored by Chevron/Delo Oil Co. The contest was held in October 2010, during the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.

Prior to national recognition, Colin’s work placed first in class and fourth overall at the 2010 San Antonio ag mechanics competition and first in class and reserve champion of the 2010 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s ag mechanics competition. Students are allowed to show for one year, and Colin concluded the year by winning reserve grand champion in the tractor restoration division and reserve grand champion in the ag mechanics show at the 2011 Medina County Show last January. He also won the showmanship title for the senior division at the show.

1937 John Deere Model B

Students participating in this competition can have sponsors to assist with the finances. Clinton Noll of Falls City and his father, James, took on this responsibility for Colin, by first providing a 1937 John Deere Model B tractor purchased by James’ grandfather in the early 1940s. The tractor is “special to us,” James said, since it has been in the family for five generations.

James said that Clinton originated this project. Together, the Nolls assisted and followed Colin’s progress as he refurbished their tractor; they also paid for all parts and supplies needed to restore the tractor to its original state.

“It was a total rebuild from front to back and placed very well throughout the show circuit in 2010,” Colin’s father, Ken, said.

As part of the project, Colin completed a workbook, detailing all that was involved. The workbook is important, James said. Scoring at the Houston show is based on the restoration of the tractor, accounting for 70 percent of the score; the workbook counts as 30 percent.

At all the shows, Colin presented his restoration process to the judges. Colin did a “great job,” James said.

The project was special to the Noll family, members of the South Texas Old Iron Club, comprised of tractor aficionados. James, a charter member, is one of the seven original members. His father, Emmett, was the oldest member of the club. Clinton is an associate member. If time permits, the Nolls will continue to showcase Colin’s work to the public through this club.

After a year of competition, the tractor was returned to the Noll family, along with the workbook detailing its history and restoration. The tractor was dedicated in Emmett’s name; he passed away in 2009, before the project was complete.



Colin’s workmanship did not conclude in Medina County. The tractor he restored became part of the Texas Farm Bureau’s Planet Agriculture booth at the 2011 San Antonio Livestock Exposition (S.A.L.E.).

Colin’s father, Ken, serves on the S.A.L.E. ag mechanic committee; with the blessing of the Noll family, the tractor became part of the display, promoting ag mechanics projects.

“From my perspective as a parent, this program [ag mechanics] helps build tomorrow’s leaders by teaching them mechanical aptitude, speaking and presentation skills, and leadership abilities that will help the students excel from this day forward,” Ken said. He encourages other students to participate in this field.

James echoed Ken’s comments, encouraging others to sponsor projects.

1950 John Deere tractor

Colin is continuing the tractor restoration circuit with a 1950 John Deere Model A tractor bequeathed by his father’s godfather, Arthur Brucks. Brucks served as a committee member of the Houston Livestock Show for the ag mechanics program when it began. This time, the family is sponsoring the tractor.

Due to mechanical issues, Colin did not compete in the San Antonio or the Houston shows with this project, but will enter in 2012. He is working to correct the problems and submit this tractor in the 2011 Delo Tractor competition.

San Antonio

Ag Mechanics contest
The agricultural mechanics contest at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo began in 2001. This “unique contest ... features a display of impressive agricultural-based projects constructed by Texas FFA and 4-H students. These projects showcase the skills, knowledge, and safety emphasized in agricultural programs through competition.”

According to the 2011 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo souvenir book, the agricultural mechanics contest has grown from 185 projects in 2001 to more than 650 in 2010.

Delo Competition

“Since 1995, the Delo Tractor Restoration Contest has rewarded the determination, mechanical skills, and business savvy of high school-aged FFA members from around the country.”

All high school FFA students are eligible to compete in the contest.

The student’s workbook is submitted in September, and a panel of qualified tractor restorers, serving as judges, selects the finalists. Skills judged include equipment maintenance, teamwork, project management, budgeting, planning, and marketing.

At the FFA convention, the contest involves an oral presentation. The student outlines “the whole tractor restoration process, from mechanical overhauls of the engines, transmission and auxiliary and ancillary systems, to the external appearance of the tractor.”

Prizes awarded: Champion, $5,000; Reserve champion, $2,500; all finalists, $250.


What is Planet Agriculture?
“Planet Agriculture is the Texas Farm Bureau’s exhibit displayed at fairs and stock shows across the state of Texas.”

Source: Texas Farm Bureau website

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