Harvest Heritage: Thomas Family Farms

The Morning Show

COLES COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The average age of farmers gets older every year, but how about the average age of tractors?

Time has stopped completely on one Coles County farming operation.

Jerry Thomas and his family farms just southeast of Charleston.

“We are currently farming 1,450 row crop acres with around 200 acres of woods and CRP ground,” Thomas says.

His sons, Justin and Jon, help out with a lot of the farm work.

“My sons are very involved because they do about 80 or 90% of the work anymore,” Jerry Thomas says.

Their farming operation uses antique tractors, including a 73-year-old Farmall his Dad used.

“We still have his 1948-M and it’s got a loader on it,” he says. “You’re talking tractors that are 60, 70-years-old we are still using on the farm. We use quite a few old tractors for pulling wagons, and raking hay, or running augers. Unfortunately, there is one John Deere on the farm because my older son married a John Deere girl, but that’s beside the point.”

WCIA: But they are all engaged in antique tractor pulling.

“So, I bought this tractor behind me for $800 from a neighbor, and the boys helped me. They were pretty little, but we cleaned it up, and took it to our first tractor pull and got second place, and that kind of got us hooked on it,” Thomas says. “Later on, I got them each an antique tractor to pull and so it was a family event.”

That led Justin Thomason to the top proficiency award given out by the National FFA for tractor restoration.

“What I enjoy most about it is taking something that is an old rusty heap and turning it into something that is new and fresh again,” Justin Thomas. “Once you get done and that thing fires up for the very first time that is pretty rewarding.”

But their most special tractor was rebuilt to raise money for FFA.

“We did the motor, fixed a bunch of seals, and gave it a custom paint job and custom decals,” says Jerry Thomas. “It’s been a very popular tractor.”

Jon Thomas’ priority is tractor pulling.

“I started off with an old $4,000 966, and they came out of the factory at 90 horse, and right now she is pushing well over 500, and we go down to Effingham like Dad was saying, and we do fairly good with it,” he says.

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