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Shark Farmer: Why Do Farmers Hang on to Old Iron?

It seems simple enough…. start the old John Deere 6030 every month to keep it fresh. Then a month turns into two, then three, then I find myself buying new batteries for it again.

I haven’t used it in probably 15 years. Every harvest I tell myself I’ll use it to haul in wagons. Conditions would have to be ideal because it lacks front-wheel assist, but wouldn’t it be cool! However, in the chaos of harvest, it always gets put on the back burner and before you know it, spring is here.

So why do I keep a tractor I don’t use?

Not only do I not use it, but it tends to be a pain. Inevitably, wherever I try to tuck it, it’s always in the way of something I need to get out. As far as value, it has probably leveled off since I bought it from my dad in 2008. I didn’t buy it individually. I bought all his equipment at once. Instead of piecing out each piece of equipment, each tool, each log chain, Dad wanted to do it in one lump sum. It was a decision that sat well with me. I was able to farm with everything that I was familiar with, including a 1976 John Deere 6030.

Interestingly enough, at one point, Dad had two of them. They were enough horsepower to handle the 4,000-gallon manure tanks. Plus, they were fairly idiot-proof. That was invaluable because hauling manure wasn’t a well-sought-after gig. Yes, he did hire some “not so experienced” people when he was in a pinch, and the 6030 was a perfect teaching tool. With an unforgiving clutch, it taught guys quickly.

As time went on, the farm equipment got upgraded. Soon the 6030 was no competition for the newer stuff. Sound-dampening cabs, front-wheel assist, and powershifts all made the old stuff pretty uncomfortable to run. And yet I kept it….

It wasn’t for lack of opportunities to sell it. I was always amazed at the offers that came when people saw it backed into the corner of the shed. From neighbors to the random delivery guy, people couldn’t help but walk over and admire it.

“Oh, I should sell it to ya, I never use it.” That was the standard response.

It was more about the memories than the usefulness. That was one of the first tractors I ever ran. I spent countless hours in it pulling a 15-foot bean drill. It was miserable! I think I actually lost enamel off my teeth from all the dust I ate. I wore headphones, but then turned the radio up so loud I could hear it over the roar. The old girl was unforgiving on your back. I remember the alarm going off, and dreading another full day of beatings she was going to give me.

Why the hell did I keep this thing?

About Rob Sharkey

Rob Sharkey is a fifth-generation grain farmer from Illinois. Along with his wife, Emily, and four kids (who are sixth generation), they raise corn and soybeans. For more info on Rob, go to

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