2017-05-11 / News

1952 Farmall tractor gets new home on farm

Machine passed down from Dutras to Brayman family

Bill Brayman and the 1952 Farmall H tractor he donated to the community farm. 
PHOTO BY BOB SUTTON Bill Brayman and the 1952 Farmall H tractor he donated to the community farm. PHOTO BY BOB SUTTON Long before Newport settlers used Conanicut Island for cattle grazing, the Narragansett Indians had been cultivating the land for centuries. The residents of Jamestown, incorporated in 1678, primarily were farmers and fishermen. Even into the 1950s, much of the land was reserved for agriculture.

In 1952, Joe Dutra Sr. bought a new Farmall H tractor for his 100-acre dairy farm at the corner of East Shore Road and Weeden Lane. Like most modern postwar tractors, it was equipped with a large engine, electric starter and hydraulic power, all of which replaced human muscle with a smooth, quick, effortless response. The Farmall’s hydraulic pump lifted and lowered the cultivators, making it easier to loosen the soil and keep the farm’s sprawling cornfields free of weeds. Over time, when the Farmall was replaced by more efficient equipment, Dutra tucked away his old tractor into a back shed.

Bill Brayman was a teenager in the early ’50s. Although he lived downtown, he was interested in farming and especially was attracted to the equipment. As a teen, he worked on the Dutra farm, driving the Farmall through the rows of corn. Later as an adult, his career would be operating heavy equipment for construction companies, but farming was his real interest.

About 15 years ago, Brayman asked Joe Dutra Jr. about the old Farmall still tucked away in the shed. “If you want it, you can have it,” Dutra said.

With that settled, Brayman drove the tractor to his house on East Shore Road. He began an extensive restoration, which included mechanical work and a complete paint job. When he was done, Brayman drove the tractor to the Jamestown Community Farm. “I don’t have any use for this right now, so you can use it,” he said. “If I need it, I will come and get it.”

Volunteers have been using that tractor, uninterrupted, since then. Just a few weeks ago, Brayman stopped by to see if the farm wanted to make the tractor its new permanent home.

“It looks like I am not going to be using the Farmall,” he said. “If you want it, you can have it.”

“Are you kidding me?” farm manager Bob Sutton thought to himself. “This is great.”

Just as the tractor had saved the Dutra family a great deal of work in 1952, it does the same for the community farm in 2017. The ability to maintain the 6 acres of vegetable rows saves hours of effort, Sutton said, which allows volunteers to expand their production without using chemical herbicides. In the spring and early summer, it’s used daily.

According to Sutton, crossing the bridges onto Conanicut Island, from either east or west, it’s hard not to notice the beauty of active farmland.

“We respond to the aesthetic of pastures and farm architecture, but don’t always appreciate the hard work,” he said.

On the other hand, Sutton said, taxpayers consistently have supported the protection of farmland, which deserves equal appreciation since successful farming in Jamestown is a shared commitment.

According to Sutton, the Jamestown Community Farm exists because of townspeople acting as a community. The landowner provides the farmland; volunteers harvest crops; neighbors donate money; architects and contractors design and build barns and solar panels; mechanics maintain equipment; electricians install wiring; beekeepers sustain the hives. All as volunteers.

“We succeed because they invest their work, interest and resources,” he said. “From this, we create tons of fresh vegetables annually that we donate to those in need.”

In the latest act of generosity, Sutton wanted to thank Brayman for the donation. The Farmall, he said, will be used exactly as it was intended 65 years ago, just as Brayman continues to work the Dutra farm as he intended as a teenager, 65 years ago.

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