Marilyn Hershey

There are a lot of colors represented on a dairy farm, but I do not know two colors more discussed, bantered about, and tossed around than red and green. There is a strong and clear competition between these two equipment dealerships, and it shows through farmers in big ways.

We often see farmers’ apparel, hats, and bumper stickers on their trucks that advertise and proclaim their equipment of choice, and there is a lot of passion behind that alignment. Both green and red fans have claims to be the best, and the conclusion sits with each individual farmer as they proudly debate over which is stronger, more durable, and better at getting the work done.

This robust opinion is typically passed from one generation to another, and I confess that I am just as guilty as anyone to pass these tractor biases onto my children and now my grandchildren. I want them to make their own choices in life, but I also do not want to lead them astray.

To be clear, I married into the red side. I had a lot of choices in my marriage, but the color of tractor we used was not one of them. Thankfully, tractors never entered into the marriage counseling sessions because my family farm also had red equipment. I do not recall that the color of Duane’s tractor was first and foremost in my mind; I think I was set in my decision that he was the one, no matter what color tractor he drove. However, it was helpful for me to have the same style of tractor to drive around the farm. Who knows, maybe Duane cleared that before he asked me out on a date.

The decision was easy for Duane as his grandfather founded an implement company that focused on red. The story goes that when C.B. started the company, there were green tractors in the lot, but as the business grew, he switched to red.

Hoober’s dealership was well known to me as a child, as my grandfather was a longtime, respected employee for Duane’s grandfather. It was quite the topic of discussion when Zookie’s granddaughter became engaged to C.B.’s grandson. Red tractors were destined for our farm.

When my father sold his cows and moved off of the farm, he kept one tractor to take with him to our farm. It was his 674 International with a front end loader. This tractor has always been his pride and joy, and every once in a while we see him puttering down the road to move a branch, push a pile of dirt, or just go for a drive. I am sure that if it was green, Duane would still allow it on the farm, but it does help that it is the right color for our dairy.

Not all living things on the farm care about the brand of tractor like we do. Cows do not have concern or an opinion about what color or kind of equipment is bringing them feed in the morning. They are just glad to hear the tractor coming up the hill from the feed trench to the freestall barn. Their excitement is obvious as they anticipate the fresh feed that is soon to reach the bunk. The cows don’t care what color is pulling the mixer wagon — they just want us to get the feed in front of them as quickly as possible.

A few years ago, Duane had a tough decision to make in the middle of harvest when we had a major breakdown on our packing tractor. He finally gave in and borrowed a green tractor to pack the trench and finish harvest. If I recall, it caused quite a stir from employees, family members, and community friends who know the depth of our affiliation with the red side. Some were thrilled and others were shocked, confused, and taking pictures to document the green presence.

I confess that I also had a time when I caved to pressure. I recently attended a dairy event and was looking for something fun to bring home to my grandsons. The only small toys that were available were green. I made an exception because my determination to bring something home was stronger than the color of the toy.

I was reprimanded by my daughter for being “soft and misguiding” by infiltrating the wrong color of tractor into their home. The grandsons, however, were not as concerned about what color the small scale combine and tractor happened to be. They were just happy to have a new farm toy.

I understand the deep loyalty, but sometimes the work to be done outweighs the commitment to the kind of tractor. It takes equipment of all styles and colors to keep a farm running smoothly. The reality is that both red and green manufacturers continue to improve technology, making our lives easier and helping us get the job done.

We all like to have fun with the banter, but the truth is that the sun rises and sets on all colors. If you stop by our farm on any given day you will see many colors in operation: red, yellow, orange, and on a rare occasion, you may even see green.