UConn Extension Tractor Course Has Lasting Impact

tractor class
Photo: Jiff Martin

For the past two years, UConn Extension has offered a Tractor Operation, Safety, and Basic Maintenance Course for beginning farmers at the UConn Plant Science Research Farm in Storrs.

This two-day class is designed to educate and empower current or future users of agricultural tractors and farm equipment. During the class, they demystified tractors to improve their understanding of how tractors are designed to work, how to operate them safely and effectively, and how to perform regular and basic maintenance tasks.

This class covered a lot of important material – in a classroom as well as hands-on experience with both diesel & gasoline engine tractors. Shane LaBrake, from Maryland taught two 8-hour sessions with Steve Olsen at UConn’s Research Farm in Storrs. Shane LaBrake is a Maryland farmer who has taught his agricultural tractor maintenance course to more than 50 farm organizations in the Northeast. Steve Olsen is UConn’s Research Farm Manager.

Since completing the course, students have reached out to Shane to share their positive experience and the impact of the course. One letter describes how the tractor maintenance students learned in the course was the most important thing those farmers learned all year. Another has some great before and after pictures of the grower’s efforts at maintaining his cultivating tractor, especially for a farmer who was afraid to do maintenance before.

Excerpt from Farmers in Washington, CT

We were your students at the UConn Extension tractor safety and maintenance course this October. We were supremely inspired and empowered after your class. Upon finally opening the hood of our tractor, we discovered that our alternator belt was extremely split straight down the middle. As per your suggestion, we marched ourselves’ down to our local dealership and became (best) friends with the owner. Very helpful! We successfully changed our oil and filter, air filter, fuel filter and alternator belt (thankfully we happened to change the one on the John Deere at UConn!). We found a manual, drew all over the engine with a silver sharpie, created a maintenance log, and cleaned and organized our shop for a solid three days (needed room for our new pancake compressor). 

Anyway, we don’t want to bore you, but words cannot express how thankful we are for all of your advice and inspiration. That two-day class was the most important thing to happen to our farm all season. So, THANK YOU.

Again, thank you so much for empowering us with the tools and motivation for a lifetime of safety and intention. We learned more than we ever expected!

Excerpt from Simsbury Farmer

Things are going well with the cubs, I’m a little intimidated by the plug cap/rotor, but I’ll figure it out eventually. The 75 was so coated in grease/grime that I degreased it, then realized how it looks, so I’ve started to strip and repaint parts-starting with the hood-its a slippery slope, hopefully I’ll have it all put back together by the time I need to use it next season! 

With an update from February 2016: the restoration on the 1975 was completed, see the photos.

The USDA Risk Management Agency and UConn Extension’s New Farms & Farmers Program sponsored the Tractor Safety and Maintenance course.

For more information on the Tractor Safety and Maintenance Course, or other programs offered by the New Farms and Farmers program at UConn Extension please visit http://newfarms.extension.uconn.edu or call 860-875-3331.