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Rural Community Welcomes FFA Members Driving Tractors to School

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Arlington High School FFA students in Arlington, Nebraska, participated in Drive Your Tractor to School Day on March 24. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Many FFA members look forward every school year to the coveted Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Students drive one of their family's tractors, and these machines are proudly parked where everyone can clearly see them.

It also becomes a full-fledged event at the school that particular day.

People from the community come back during the day and either drive by the tractors or even get out and walk around them to get a better view. And the teachers of elementary students bring their kiddos out to the tractors to let them get a closer look at this equipment.

Some schools hold the day in February during National FFA Week, while many others have it later in the spring. From a quick scan of social media, many FFA chapters hold their tractor driving day during National Agriculture Week, which this year was March 21-27.

This year was my oldest son's last Drive Your Tractor to School Day, as Kyle is a senior at Arlington High School in Arlington, Nebraska. While this was the fifth year he drove one of our tractors during the day, this year was especially significant: Kyle is president of the local FFA chapter this school year.

To see a video of the majority of the tractors that took part in Arlington's FFA tractor day, visit….

The first year Kyle drove a tractor to school, he was in 8th grade, and the day was held during FFA Week, which is in mid-February. That day was extremely cold (like, minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit) and the reason they now do the day in March. Since we live quite a distance from school, back then, we had loaded up the tractor the evening before and backed the trailer into the shed. The tractor was a 1957 John Deere 620, my grandpa's last tractor, which has been in our family for 66 years now; four generations of our family have driven it.

Unfortunately, on that cold day in 2019, the tractor barely started; we let it run on the way down to about a mile outside of town. We unloaded the vintage tractor, and my son drove it the rest of the way to the school.

As I followed him (in the nice, warm pickup, I might add) I thought there was some symmetry involved here. My son was driving in below-zero temperatures on the same tractor as my grandpa did many decades before him on many a bitterly cold Nebraska winter morning, feeding his dairy cows.

After the short drive to school in 2019, I asked Kyle how the drive was. His short answer was, "It was cold." I imagine it was.

During the next four years, he continued to drive our tractors to school for this day, although the tractors varied since it depended on what was available on the farm -- and what started. His freshman year, in 2020, the day was moved to March, and it was one of the last days of "normal" school before the COVID-19 pandemic closed school and my kids began to learn from home for the rest of the semester.

This year's Drive Your Tractor Day at Arlington High School featured 24 tractors, the most they have ever had for the event. In the past, there were about 10 to 15 kids and tractors participating. The weather definitely influences how many tractors are present at this event. Years with cold weather kept some kids from driving their tractors, especially if they are driving open-station tractors.

Well, except for my son apparently. In cold 2019, only four kids in total drove tractors to Arlington's School. My son had the only tractor with no cab.

The Arlington FFA Chapter is fairly new, beginning in 2016. Despite being a rural town in eastern Nebraska with both farms and several agribusinesses in the region, the rural school never had an FFA chapter before then.

Thanks to a dedicated group of local ag folks, they convinced the school to add FFA, and I really believe this program has aided many kids, including my own. My son went from a shy, quiet junior high kid to a high schooler involved in many different school activities.

Those of us involved in production agriculture sometimes forget how lucky we are to drive tractors on a regular basis. If you ever watch these FFA members drive their tractors to school, you can see how proud they are to drive them for even one day.

To read my Vintage Iron column I wrote about Kyle's first trip with the tractor to school in 2019, see….

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