It takes an ecovillage…: some thoughts on ‘Going to Seed’

I enjoyed writing a book review for my last post so much that I’m going to write another one this time around. But whereas last time it was a long review of a very long book addressing itself to a large slice of human history, here I offer you a short review of a much shorter book about the life of a single man.

The man in question is Simon Fairlie, and the book is Going to Seed: A Counterculture Memoir (Chelsea Green, 2022). Disclosure: I know Simon a little, as I suspect do many people in England with more than a passing involvement in the movement for local, sustainable agriculture – testament either to the still regrettably small corps of people the movement commands, or perhaps more positively to Simon’s tireless efforts in making the case and spreading the word on numerous fronts. I’ve written for Simon’s excellent periodical The Land and there’s an endorsement from me inside his book. So, needless to say, I am not an unbiased observer.

Parts of Simon’s life story were therefore familiar to me as I read his memoir: cofounder of the influential low impact agricultural community, Tinker’s Bubble; land rights activist and rural planning expert; reviver of the fine art of scything; acutely perceptive agricultural thinker, whose book Meat: A Benign Extravagance is still the best-articulated vision of a just and sustainable small farm future I know. Other parts were newer to me: an upper-crust if unconventional childhood, dropping out in the 1960s and joining the hippy trail to India, 1990s road protesting and a brief stint in jail as a member of the Twyford Six (“an unwarranted honorific given the minimal degree of martyrdom we had to undergo”), work as a stonemason high aloft at Salisbury Cathedral – and, generally, a life lived at an angle to mainstream working and living arrangements.

The book has a conventional autobiographical structure, a chronological self-narration from childhood to senior citizen, which surprised me at first. It’s not the kind of thing I’d have expected Simon to write at all. But the payoff from such an acute observer of the world is that his story, from 1950s childhood to 2020s dotage, becomes a deft social history of postwar England (and other places, but mostly England). Throughout, Simon has been drawn to people retaining or creating lifeways that resist or negate the dictates of the conventional economy, and he offers numerous wonderful little vignettes from these various front lines – for example, in his account of the now-defunct seacoaling community inhabiting the beaches near Newcastle that he briefly joined in the 1980s, “an example of an open access commons operating within the shell of a capitalist transaction”.

Simon’s attention to the way such communities form – and the way the powers-that-be try to crush them – elevates the book far beyond the personal into a nuanced appreciation of the cultures of capitalism, making it a fitting complement to the book I previously reviewed. But narrated in the context of an individual life, and with Simon’s trademark salty style, it’s considerably more of a page turner.

I like the telling little details he notices – how, for example, chicken was a luxury food in the 1950s because of its dependence on then relatively expensive arable grain fodder, while grass-fed beef and lamb were more easily available. The implications of such observations for agricultural futures today are large, yet go dismayingly little discussed in contemporary food system debates. Simon’s portrait of the 1950s emphasizes how even a fairly privileged upbringing in one of the most privileged countries in the world at that time involved much closer connection to a relatively renewable local agrarian economy than today. This is worth bearing in mind when making the case for low impact local agrarianism in the teeth of derision from techno-solutionists of the present, who are apt to accuse one of wishing to go back to the stone age, or the middle-ages, or [insert supposedly awful period of past history of choice]. The appropriate response to this is to say that we don’t wish to “go back” anywhere, but a passing appreciation among our critics of the way that the neoliberal extremism of recent years has undermined even the residual local sustainability and food autonomy in many countries, including Britain, in just a few decades wouldn’t go amiss.

There were two related areas of discussion in Simon’s book that left me wanting more analysis from him. The first relates to the relative failure of the timber enterprise at Tinker’s Bubble, which he describes as follows:

“the main reason was that the timber operation was a joint enterprise that required the co-operation of several people … And we hippies, although we wanted to live in a community, actually weren’t too good at working communally. That’s not to say we couldn’t. It was more that most of the time most of the people didn’t want to. A squad of professional soldiers under orders would have achieved in a few days what took us months or even years to get together.

The problem had been apparent from the outset. We started out with communal work days, but it was often difficult to get some people to join in and after about eighteen months these were dropped. Instead we adopted a system where different people took responsibility for different tasks, but not everyone carried out their roles, and the forestry fell behind. By 1999…work was no longer structured around a farm plan. Instead each person was supposed to achieve a land-based income through their own devices…The result was a multiplicity of veg patches…hand tilled with spade and mattock” (pp.221-2)

In this revealing microcosm from a single modern agricultural community, Simon pretty much tells the history of local agrarian societies writ large – working communally where they have to, wrestling to find formal collective work arrangements able to fit around the crooked timber of humanity, but generally preferring to organize agriculture in ways that create personal autonomy over the work regimen and opting where possible for intensive cultivation on an individual or household basis, while leaving collective arrangements for the more extensive, whole-landscape level stuff.

I’ve written about this in more detail elsewhere, but in short I don’t think Simon should blame it on any unique failings among the hippies at Tinker’s Bubble. The contrast with a squad of soldiers under orders is informative. History suggests that it’s usually only under rather special, and perhaps undesirable, forms of hierarchy that it becomes easy to create a readily manageable day-to-day work regimen that’s genuinely collective in form. Contemporary writers too often fall into the trap of supposing this is some particular failing of our modern, selfish individualism. It isn’t.

Simon later moved to Monkton Wyld, another well-known intentional community here in southwest England. He speaks a little more highly of it, but – unlike Tinkers Bubble – he wasn’t involved in the arduous process of establishing its routines, and, as he acknowledges himself, the community doesn’t make its livelihood from agriculture and, when he moved there, was already running along the lines that Tinker’s Bubble eventually adopted, where “each person is responsible for their own field of activity, but is answerable to the community for their performance”.

For me, this raises questions of a kind we recently discussed on this blog that touch upon the second point of interest, namely family and personal relationships. Throughout the book, Simon discusses his sometimes stuttering family and romantic relationships with impressive candour and self-criticism, and occasional raw honesty. Yet I was struck by this passage in which he shares his thoughts about how intentional communities address internal tensions:

“Nothing bodes worse, in my view, than ‘feelings meetings’ called to resolve interpersonal problems or plumb the depths of the communal psyche … Occasionally we get visitors, or prospective members who want to promote this kind of collective narcissism and I’m glad to say they get pretty short shrift from most of our members. ‘Least said, soonest mended’ is not a solution for all ills, but it is the policy to be preferred in the first instance.”

I don’t much disagree, and I likewise tend to shy away from collective over-sharing of emotional introspection. But, indeed as Simon says, ‘least said soonest mended’ isn’t a solution for all ills, and it seems to me that the culture around this in current times – particularly manifested in generations younger than mine or Simon’s – has improved in its recognition that people often do need to talk through their complications with each other in constructive ways, and sometimes need the help of others to do it. This is usually true whether the community of concern is a family, a workplace, a neighbourhood, an intentional community, an ecovillage or a country. My sense of this, somewhat amplified by reading Simon’s book, is that it doesn’t matter all that much which of these levels we’re talking about. The need to address and sometimes redress power relationships and interpersonal tensions is similar at all levels of human interaction.

This is why I’ve come to think that the endless and often fierce arguments about whether families, friendship groups, local or intentional communities, governments, commons, wider publics or statutory agencies are the best form of fundamental organization for a well-functioning society are ultimately futile. I have a slight bias against governments and statutory agencies because I don’t think they’re very good at sharing their feelings constructively and then moving on. But ultimately all these levels of human organization face parallel challenges, and squabbling over which is best serves little purpose. At Monkton Wyld as for every other well-functioning social unit, each person is responsible for their own field of activity, but is answerable to the wider community. And the wider community must also somehow be answerable to each person. Enough said. Time to move on.

In this brief review, I’ve just picked out a few strands from Simon’s rich and informative narrative – I’d warmly commend anyone interested enough to have read this far to get themselves a copy of the book, where they’ll find much more to entertain and inspire them. On its final page, Simon writes:

“I’m not one of those bronzed and wiry septuagenarians who take on challenges like rowing across the Atlantic. I’m pink and fat, and I avoid having to bend down to tie up my shoelaces. Yet despite this corporeal decadence, I can still milk the cows, muck out the yard and mow quarter of an acre of hay in a morning, and I intend to keep it up. I expect to die in bed with my boots on, having been too knackered and drunk to take them off”

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen until those boots have tramped many more miles, and he’s shared more of his acute wisdom and radicalism, and a few more stories, with the rest of us.

46 thoughts on “It takes an ecovillage…: some thoughts on ‘Going to Seed’

  1. Chris,
    You had me at me at “short review of a shorter book” (I’m kidding, but I’m not.)

    I wonder about the recollection of chicken being less common in the fifties because of its dependence on arable grain fodder? The wide adoption of the vertical model of raising broilers, in this country, took off in the sixties. It is certainly is more dependent upon commodity feeds. Just wondering if in Britain the lack of chicken was less to do with the availibility of feed and more to do with the yet unadopted vertical industrial method of raising poultry? Or, even the ratioioning of post-war resources in the agricultural economy? That adoption in the US moved poultry from an occasional dish to the ubiquitous dining option for lunch and dinner.

    Thinking along these lines, the oft quoted stat that Americans ate more lamb and mutton than beef, before WW2, makes one wonder what other shifts in dietary preferences will shake out in a post-industrial agriculture?

    BTW I’m adapting Simon’s close as my eptiaph: ” he died with his boots on, too knackered and drunk to take them off.”


    • With the risk of self-promotion I have written a chapter about the rise of chicken in my book Global Eating Disorder. But you can save your money and read a short version here: With these mega-drivers as a background, we can discern some factors which have played a major role in the transformation of the luxury that was Sunday chicken into a very cheap food. Earlier, most farms with animals also produced their own feed. With the large-scale introduction of chemical fertilisers after World War II and improvements in transportation technologies, farms no longer had to integrate animals and crops. With increasing mechanisation, crop farmers could produce much cheaper grain, and later on also soybeans – increasingly grown in monocultures. The grains were sold to specialised livestock farmers, including chicken producers.

      Chickens, just like humans, depend on sunlight to produce vitamin D. Therefore chickens would feed on worms and other insects in the yard and would be fed maize when they went back into the chicken house. Once farmers realised they could simply add vitamin D and other vitamins and medications to the chicken feed, they no longer had to let the chickens outdoors. Meanwhile, technology for automatic feeding had been invented. Now, the industrialisation of both broilers and laying hens could proceed apace. Mechanisation of the whole slaughtering process helped to reduce prices and increase volumes. In just over 50 years, the number of chickens produced in the United States increased 14-fold, while the number of farms having chickens dropped from 1.6 million to just 27,000.8 Half of all American broilers now come from farms producing more than 700,000 chicks per year.9 Big food industries came in and contracted producers for their brands and provided them with technologies and markets. At the beginning of this century three-quarters of global chicken production were in the hands of agribusiness companies.10

      The development of broiler production was paralleled by developments in the processing, marketing and consumer side. The birds themselves are torn into pieces and reconfigured in a multitude of products such as nuggets and strips. In 1930 the then 40-year-old KFC founder Harland Sanders (who never was a real Colonel) was operating a service station in Corbin, Kentucky, and it was there that he began cooking for hungry travellers who stopped in for gas. He called it ‘Sunday Dinner, Seven Days a Week’. Today, KFC, together with Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, is part of Yum! Brands, Inc., the world’s leading restaurant company with over 40,000 restaurants and 1.5 million people employed in more than 125 countries and territories.11

      Chicken breeding is extremely concentrated as a result of high research expenditure and the capital-intensive nature of the chicken business. By the late 2000s only three sizeable breeding groups remained for broilers: Cobb-Vantress, Aviagen and Groupe Grimaud.12 Two breeders control 94% of the supply of laying hens.13 All these developments have had profound impact on the main character of the story, Gallus gallus. In just half a century, the breeders created two different specialist chickens, each one incredibly efficient for its specific purpose. A typical laying hen of today needs 1.99 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of eggs, while a broiler hen will need 5.22 kg of feed for the same quantity. But the broiler chicken is far superior in converting feed to meat. To produce 1 kg of live weight the broiler needs only 1.7 kg of feed, while the chicken of a laying hen needs 3.8 kg.14 Unfortunately, both the broiler and the laying hen are less efficient than their common ancestor in being a chicken.

      • Gunnar,
        That is pretty much how I have understood that development. We have raised Speckled Sussex for the past 22 years on our farm. They are good dual purpose birds, nice egg layers, grow out at a reasonable rate. We butcher the roosters at about 8-10 months. The hens get butchered at around 3 years. Taste? Excellent. We just have adapted out cooking to a low and slow proposition.

        • I grew one batch of what are loosely called meat birds , they grew real fast but they broke their legs never walked around much , I free ranged them I was appalled by then , imho they are an abomination .
          We grow australorps , and a few Easter eggers the grand kids won , the aussies stand the heat well , I like old fashioned rhode island reds not the new rhode island ,but I can’t find any .

      • It was President Roosevelt who stated during the depression , ” A chicken in every pot , ” chicken was expensive , It was a vote catcher and it worked to get him elected , people saw chicken as rich folks food .

  2. The comparison of his community to a military regiment in terms of work efficiency is quite interesting. There are obvious trade offs in the organizing and outlooks of the various participants from each camp. Would Simon, given a free choice, have preferred a military approach?

    Above Brian notes the change in dietary meats as a result of WW2 (BTW, hi Brian, you’ve been missed)… and I suspect grain availability and industrialization of poultry production may have had some role. But there would have been other influences as well. One that strikes me – the experience of military service.

    My own father and uncles grew up in a very remote farm community where everyone knew how to accomplish the work necessary for survival. Teamwork was well understood. Some experience with markets and finance – though limited – still crossed their horizons. And a sound general education left them well suited to join when called.

    Reflecting on the stories I heard from these uncles and my father about their experiences in the military at the end of WW2 and from service in post-war Europe (also a conflict on the Korean peninsula) left me with the impression that their experiences were somewhat different from their city colleagues. Their reflections centered more on personal experience in places they’d only heard of from books, working side by side with men of different ethnicities and world views, then on the rations, the drills, the dangers and difficulties.

    The violence in Vietnam passed before I was old enough to be called. I could have volunteered for post war service, but chose college instead. A few of my school mates did serve in the late 70s and while none of them were shot at or put in harm’s way, their experiences seem to have reflected my fathers. A worthwhile experience in many ways.

    But to the food angle – military food – a very industrial effort. Could the experience of “mess hall” have contributed to post war food choices?

    • Clem,
      Well, one of the old stories about mutton had to do with the prevelance of that in the diet of the soldiers. The US slaughtered 90% of the national herd and canned it for the troops. A lot of that was old ewes from the range. One of the reasons was the development of rayon and other synthetic fibers. So wool was no longer an essential item for the military.

  3. “retaining or creating lifeways that resist or negate the dictates of the conventional economy” is certainly something I would like people to say about me when I am gone.

  4. Good fences make good neighbours; and as it is with land use (you’ve observed many times before that “common” land was not usually managed as some kind of free-for-all, but tightly controlled by local communities), so I suspect it is with labour.

    None of my various bits of voluntary work could be described as being run with military precision; but as a choral musician I know a thing or two about coordination, and I encounter similar trends in work I do and have done with churches. Whether you’re performing a piece of music, running a soup kitchen/shelter, or communally managing a garden, doing things well requires resources and if there are not enough resources to do things well by one method, someone has to be responsible for finding another way or deciding what won’t happen. I’m sure this can theoretically be handled by some kind of consensus decision making process, but the trend I see is that someone with both some extra interest in outcomes and some extra expertise (not necessarily a huge amount of this) either is appointed to make the decisions, or starts making them anyway and is a de-facto leader. I’ve been in both of those situations countless times, and getting this stuff right is really hard, even when most people don’t have their income or livelihoods at stake. (Perhaps especially then — I’ve found people have all kinds of undeclared or less obvious interest in various outcomes, and they aren’t always aware of the degree to which this influences their involvement.)

    I think my preference is for some fairly clear guidelines from the outset, with those in leadership positions working well within their capabilities — so that when an unusual or dangerous situation crops up (which it will), there is plenty of spare capacity to deal with it.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Indeed, nice to hear your voice on here again, Brian. In my opinion, brevity is an overrated virtue … though it’s still a virtue!

    Thanks for the informative chicken discussion. Far be it from me to question SF’s analyses of meat – one way or another it seems the relative price of chicken was higher in the 50s. Gunnar’s analysis is sobering (thanks for sharing it!), and Brian’s approach – along the lines of what Simon calls ‘default’ livestock in his Meat book – seems like the best (old) way forward.

    Interesting thoughts from Clem on military service. It’s not really my thing, even aside from the killing people bit, but it does strike me that military folks often come away from it with some good life lessons and good skills at collective work (at least the ones who don’t end up homeless, drug dependent or with PTSD … but maybe that’s a more modern thing connected with the demilitarisation of modern life?)

    I guess there’s something of a continuum from ploughing a lonely furrow at one end to military life at the other and to various more-or-less hierarchical kinds of voluntary or contractual work arrangements in between. Kathryn’s observations chime with my experience – organising joint work is often worthwhile but invariably complex and time-consuming, with a need often to make explicit what lies implicit. I have a lot of faith in the basic human ability to create successful joint working structures, but little faith in the idea that they happen by default with no need for hard work.

    Finally, here’s to creating lifeways that resist the dictates of the conventional economy, then dying drunk with our boots on…

    • You are a good sport with the jibe, Chris. And I do read your longer pieces. But this does make bring to mind the famous Calvin Coolidge story (yes, there was “one”.) Silent Cal was famous for being, well, silent. At a White House dinner, a lady said to the president, “I bet my husband I could get you to say more than three words to me.” Coolidge looked at her and said, “you lose.”

    • Chicken is an interesting one, because while the cash price of chicken might well have been high, the practice of having a few hens in the back garden, eating bugs and slugs and kitchen scraps, has been an option for many people — except the most urban. How much chicken a chicken-keeping household would eat, then, would probably be a function of how many eggs they wanted and what size flock they could support; I don’t know the exact dynamics of keeping a breeding flock going, but if I had to guess I’d say that in towns you would buy the chickens and in the countryside you’d keep a rooster.

      Is this a bit like blackberries, which are free (except for your labour) if you pick them yourself from a local hedge, and expensive if you buy them at the supermarket, without much in between?

      • Blackberries are free but they always demand blood I have never collected a basket without bleeding !!!
        Su.New menu here for chickens is grasshoppers , millions of the buggers they get fat in them !

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  7. I read a book about food in WW2 some years ago – A Taste of Victory? and it was interesting how armies affected taste, in terms both of what they had avalible to feed soldiers and how they had to modify dishes to make them acceptable for all soldiers not just those used to the original.

    But yes, I love the book, the story of a life well lived

    • During the war the USA sent seeds to the UK , my grandfather still had some packets , he showed them to me , ” what the hell is okra ? Squash ? And black eyed peas , ” he tried to grow them but they need heat that the UK has not got , plants seeds and much everything else has its own place to thrive including people .

      • In a very simplistic version of life on Earth this might be considered sufficient. But life is not that simple. There are examples all around us of plants and animals that thrive in places where they did not originate. One need look no further than then the nearest mirror to see an example of an animal that moves about the planet, place to place, and adapts quite well.

        I think Diogenese 10 has moved from the UK to the deep south of the US. And though it is true many plant samples would not appreciate the same journey – other members of the same species may well already be adapted in that place.

        Not all of this moving about comes with welcome result. Invasive species abound, and it is often the case that one particular species gets somewhat miffed when other species tag along and impose themselves where we’d rather they not.

        If one day there are blogs hosted by emerald ash borers, I’m guessing they won’t waste many electrons discussing the significance of place (unless they consider the limited distribution of ash trees… ).

        Genetic diversity is both blessing and curse. Even within our own species we celebrate and curse our own genetic diversity. We are a fickle bunch.

      • I grow squash outside in the UK just fine. I’m not sure if black eyed peas are photoperiod sensitive — I know with some beans the problem isn’t lack of heat so much as lack of enough hours of darkness in the warm part of the year.

  8. I was similarly impressed with Simon Fairlie’s well-researched book “Meat…” when it came out, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

    Chris wrote, “organising joint work is often worthwhile but invariably complex and time-consuming…”
    I’m smiling about the qualifier “often”, which leaves room for times when it’s less than worthwhile.

    The intentional community where my family lived for some years had the unofficial (and mostly unachieved) aspiration of “two parties for every meeting” as a way to foster social cohesion and prevent burnout. “Feelings meetings”, as Simon calls them, happened but more numerous were the meetings with specific agendas to accomplish.

    Still, going to meetings to hash out work plans was easier than actually doing the physical work, and there was a risk of plans being unimplemented due to lack of sufficient volunteers. So ideas about “what I think should be done” took a backseat to “what I am willing to do”.

  9. Thanks for the further comments. My experiences with meat chickens have likewise been quite depressing. I’m hoping to restart a little chook operation soon for the household along the same lines as Brian.

    All sorts of new comments springing up on older posts (some very old!) Thank you. But I’m afraid I’m now going to be offline for a few days. I’m hoping to reappear in this little corner of cyberspace again later next week.

    • …meant to add in response to Steve: are there occasions when organising joint work proves not worthwhile? Why, yes there are…

      …and thanks for those interesting observations of community life. Rings true.

  10. Hello Chris,

    Thanks for sharing. What a character. After reading this and your reference to the Meat book in your book, I got quite inspired to read more by Fairlie!

    I think that working together is always difficult and often worthwhile. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”, and of course using the goal orientation of St.Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

    In my experience, it is the same in volunteering, public sector, farming, industry, small companies, multinationals. Wherever I have been working, people are quite similar. Conflicts and free-riders, egos and heroes. Often hidden/unspoken/unconscious differences in value priorities, but all human weaknesses are present in all of us… (I often come back to the wisdom of the seven sins/seven virtues of the medieval tradition.) Even when I did my military service, there were slackers…

    I often use the methods of “non-violent communication” when collaborating with others, to make desires, wishes, dreams, conflicts and norms explicit. If possible, I try to find people who want the same thing and are aligned in values and priorities, and work together with them. It is not always possible… Often I only realize my own priorities after a while when working on a project. I suspect that it is not always possible to know all this upfront, so it is good to get going and evaluate at irregular intervals.

    To conclude, I concur with Boxer: “I will work harder”.


    • Thanks Goran. Some very nice observations. I try to use NVC too, but I’m not always very good at it!

      I hope to come back to the St Exupery quotation in my next post.

      • I think it was Exupéry who said something about not making conclusions while on the journey of life, though I may be mistaken.
        Thanks for the review, Chris – true to your word as ever. Like Clem, for some reason I seized on the ‘professional soldiers’ quote, and proceeded to overthink it (in my fashion!) along the lines of the good that can come from the freedom and ease that autonomy can offer.
        Though I haven’t read the book yet, Fairlie strikes me as the kind of fellow who, if he’d wanted a taste of military life, he would have gone and done it, probably choosing the Foreign Legion (he may have done for all I know). But I digress. I’m also enjoying Sean and Andrew’s intricate and insightful discussion along the lines of metaphysics and the infinite subtleties. Religion always slightly tempts me with the promise that here’s something one can perhaps finally hang one’s hat on, but instead I muddle on with a vague feeling that perhaps the least, or the best, that I can do is to dignify a void with a question mark. That’s not to denigrate good teaching, however. (PS on the blog at least I’d say your record for NVC is admirable).

        • PPS Please don’t treat us to a full disclosure that your recent court case was for GBH and attempted murder (I’m joking of course).

          • Thanks Simon – nice comments. Can’t really see Simon as a solider, but if he ever was he didn’t disclose it in his book!

            And talking of disclosure, I’m happy to confirm that my alleged offence is merely the rather boring one of failing to comply with Section 14 of the Public Order Act. My trial is, as it happens, tomorrow, so the story is yet to be written. But I’m definitely hoping it will go the NVC way…

    ” A report commissioned by the United Kingdom (UK) government says the entire country will need to ban most air travel within ten years and all air travel by 2050″
    Airbus may as well close down now , in this time frame car and truck manufacture may as well close too but train manufacture will have to restart as most are imports .

    Y’all night like to read this ,
    Looks like stout shoes are in the future , no ships , no imports , no animals and probably few people .

      • Thanks ,
        My friend just sold a 125 horse power 4_thousand hours twenty year old Deere for fifteen thousand over the price he bought it for ! No electric anything , all mechanical , and fixable .

          • At least here in the continental US you can participate in auctions (both online and in person) where older iron is available…

            For example:

            When writing this there were nearly 400 tractors from 100 to 174Hp and over 500 from 40-99 Hp. Results of recent auctions are posted. You can usually find something useful for less than $10K. Be warned that shipping something is not trivial though… you could drop $6K to buy a tractor and another $1K or more to move it.

            Several years ago I bought a 1957 Allis Chalmers D17 at a local auction for just over $3K and drove it back to the farm. Since then it has taken about $1K in service and repairs. This is a 63Hp tractor.

            Even though this is a 65 year old beast, there are many of us ‘old timers’ who used this sort of kit when we were growing up… and there are many of these around yet to serve as parts and backups.

            It doesn’t have an air-conditioned cab, stereo, drink holder (though I could add that easily enough)… but it still does what it was designed to do.

      • Funny thing. My Farmall H is down with a chipped tooth on the 3rd gear countershaft in the transmission. All the other gears work fine but I’m reluctant to use it until I get the parts to fix it. Heavy duty, original bearings don’t seem to be available any longer.

        My back up tractor, a much newer Farmall 350, has a bad alternator. Scrounging around I came up with another Delco alternator that will work.

        I don’t know how farmers can be out of the field for days at critical times of the year. We have another 3000 peppers to plant. And everything else. Our season is short, it is a busy time.

        • Try a industrial supply company that sells bearings , my local company found dynamo bearings off the shelf when it locked up , just took them down dumped them on the counter and said ” got any of them ” they measured them up asked if I wanted light of heavy duty , disappeared for a few minutes and appeared with new Timkin bearings in boxes , all for seventeen dollars ,, couldn’t find anything on the net , they had them in stock !

  12. Thanks for the various further comments, and apologies for not responding. I’ve been … busy. And now I need to fix my tractor. So please forgive me for not commenting further here for now. I hope normal service will be resumed soon…

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