Tractor transformation a labor of love

Of all the tractors on display at the recent Pennsylvania Farm Show, the bright red 1940 Farmall M displayed by Penn Manor FFA students may have had the best back story.

The tractor was meticulously refurbished by a group of Manor FFA students and alumni after it was nearly destroyed in a January 2015 fire at the Barley family farm in Manor Township.

Kenny Barley was the last person to drive the tractor before the devastating fire, which destroyed a barn, more than 100 head of cattle and farm equipment. Kenny also headed the team of students that spent nearly 400 hours out of school bringing the family relic back to life.

“My heart sunk as I watched the barn I grew up with go up in smoke along with my great grandfather’s tractor,” Kenny said. “This tractor meant a lot to my family because it was there since before we even owned the family farm.”

When Penn Manor ag teacher Neil Fellenbaum suggested Kenny restore the tractor for the Farm Show’s Antique Tractor Restoration display, “I knew this tractor would surely be the one that deserves a complete restoration,” he said.

Kenny was joined on the project by fellow students and FFA members Colin and Isaiah Smith, Wesley Herr, Luke Frey, Jonathon Eshbach, William Harrington and David Herr, a Penn Manor alumus. They stripped off what remained of the tractor’s singed paint, and completed extensive mechanical, hydraulic and electrical system repairs, learning as they went. The final step was a complete repainting.

“They put in 390 hours of their own time outside of school, a lot of that over Christmas break,” said Fellenbaum, who supervised the project.  “This was a great learning experience for these young men.”

As part of the project, the students documented each step in the restoration process and produced a video explaining how they accomplished the work. The group also did a live, 15-minute presentation on the restored tractor on the Farm Show’s Weis Exposition Hall stage.

The classic rig attracted a lot of attention. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Education Secretary, even stopped by to pose for photos in the driver’s seat. The students’ efforts earned them a ribbon and an $800 award for the Manor chapter of the FFA.

“It meant a lot seeing something that came out of the ashes being transformed into a shiny new piece of machinery,” said Kenny. “The tractor project was a success only because a lot of teamwork was implemented to finish it.”

“It is very special to me to be able to showcase something like this because of the family history and the wonderful story behind it.”

Nice work, gentlemen!