Tractor pulls, a common staple of many fairs, feature – behemoth machines weighing thousands of pounds with roaring engines racing down a track. But the Michigan FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) tractor driving skills contest, on display at the first day of the 2011 Ag Expo, is a competition that relies on skill, patience and know-how.
The competition, which took place at the Michigan State University (MSU) farm show for the sixth consecutive year, was held at the special events area on the southwest end of the grounds.
Drew Richard, 17, a member of the Weberville FFA put his skills to the test in the contest. And while he said that he could have done better, he called the event a great showcase for demonstrating the skill necessary to successfully maneuver a tractor.
Richard, who said he has been driving a tractor, "since I was old enough to reach the clutch," was competing in the senior-level event. In this division, competitors drive a Kubota tractor with a haywagon trailer through a series of poles. On top of each pole is a golf ball, and points are deducted for every ball that falls. Competitors are also scored based on time, if the tractor stalls and whether the trailer is centered between the poles.
And centering the trailer is no easy task. In the senior event where Richard competed, the poles are spaced apart similar to the size of standard barn door. But the haywagon is so wide that clearance on either side of the poles measures only 1 foot.
In the junior-level contest, which involves smaller tractors and trailers, the clearance is a scant 6 inches.
It is no easy feat, Richard said. "You've got to watch so many things. You've got to watch the wagon, the tractor, the poles. And you are working against the clock," he said.
To learn more, visit www.agexpo.msu.edu or call toll-free 1-800-366-7055.