Penn Yan FFA Forms Alliance with Bellona International Harvester Club

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Students (L to R) Chevy Gordon, Gavin McGrath, Cody Jackson, and mentor Howie Hemminger, IH Club President, rebuild the steering mechanism of the Super A.

The Penn Yan Chapter of FFA has recently formed an educational and business alliance with the Bellona International Harvester Club through the restoration of a 1954 Farmall “Super A” Tractor.

“It all started with a simple phone call,” explains John Kriese, Penn Yan FFA Advisor, “and it has been one of the greatest educational endeavors we have ever undertaken within the agriculture program since I started teaching in 1985”.

“I picked up the phone one night, and Dave McElwee was on the other end,” recalls Kriese. “Dave indicated that he had an idea about restoring a tractor as an educational partnership, and wanted to know if we could sit down and talk.”

This phone call then transformed into an action-packed series of meetings, where Kriese, Pete Dean, Dave McElwee, and club president Howie Hemminger began to formulate the goals and the objectives of this alliance.

Members of the Bellona IH Club wanted to reach out to the agriculture students at Penn Yan Academy and help current students acquire college and career-ready skills through the restoration of a tractor. The Bellona IH Club is a group of dedicated individuals from all over the Finger Lakes region who have a strong desire to instill positive attitudes of agriculture and the related sciences into the next generation of leaders within our community.

“However, this project is more than just nuts and bolts,” states Kriese. “This project is about teamwork, forming alliances, learning, goal-setting, building business relationships within the community, and creating an environment of unselfish dedication.”

The project tractor came from Carleton and Claudette Voak of Penn Yan, and was presented to the Penn Yan FFA Chapter at last year’s annual parent/member award banquet. In September, Kriese’s Agricultural Mechanics class began the tedious job of completely dismantling the 70-year-old machine. The tractor had seen many years of service, several coats of paint, a touch of fertilizer, and a lot of tired parts.

September also brought a team of adult members into the educational arena to begin mentoring students. Organized by club member Pete Dean, passionate team-players from the club have set aside each Friday from their schedules to come to the school, and work with students in small groups to teach the fundamentals of science, engineering, safety, and perseverance through the restoration project. As a result, students refer to this weekly event as “Farmall Friday,” and look forward to learning from their mentors. Club Mentors who have dedicated time have included Pete Dean, David Christensen, Bruce Wright, David and Jim McElwee, Howie Hemminger, Jay Hoover, and Jerry Stape. Community members who have also helped thus far include Greg Jackson and Rob Bennett.

Students in the class learned about the fundamentals of grant writing, and wrote a proposal for new tires. As a result of their applied literacy skills, Titan Tires donated brand new front and rear tires for this project.

The Bellona IH Club has also acquired donations for this project. Individual members have donated items with considerable value including new body parts, the wiring harness, lights, a new seat assembly, the flat belt pulley, a new drawbar, oil and fluids, and many small items which can be very difficult to replace.

The students in the class entitled Introduction to Agriculture have also been involved. Every piece of the tractor has been ether sandblasted, glass-beaded, or wire-wheeled to remove the accumulation of rust and the multiple coats of paint. The students have hundreds of combined hours in this project, and the pride of the workmanship is beginning to show through.

Both the FFA and the Bellona IH Club have put forth a substantial amount of financial resources into this project. FFA members have decided to invest in this project because their advisor has taught them about the concept of “return on investment.” Kriese tries to help students to understand that financial security is often created through wise investments and by working together on a common goal.

Once the tractor restoration is completed, phase 2 of the alliance will begin. Members from both groups are going to team up and will sell raffle tickets on this very special piece of agricultural history for approximately one year. The goal will be to raise at least $10,000 through the sale of tickets, and the proceeds from this fundraiser will then be used for FFA member scholarships. These scholarships will allow students to apply for funds which will be used to encourage life-long learning, for college or career readiness training, and for opportunities which will encourage personal growth and leadership development.

Another key element of this project is the business relationships which have been formed. The FFA believes that it is important to support the business owners which make Yates County and the surrounding area the special place that it is. Although this list is not totally complete, the Penn Yan FFA would like to express their gratitude for the assistance they have received with this endeavor. Business partnerships include: Joe’s Engine Repair for assistance with the engine; Trombley’s Tire for donating tubes; John Carroll, for assisting with the paint; Car Quest of Penn Yan for assisting with paint and body supplies; Greg Jackson of Action Auto for body work and parts preparations; John Murphy, Murphy’s Mobile Repair; and Greg Rector of Turner A, S and B. A complete list of individuals and businesses who have donated to this project will be published once the tractor is completed.

The restoration project will be complete by the end of April, 2015. Additional details about the opportunity to purchase tickets and a complete listing of all involved participants will be available in a future edition of The Chronicle-Express.