I remember when we bought our first tractor.
It seems like a long time ago, when I had only the foggiest notion of what a three point hitch is. The ad exclaimed that the deal included a grape hoe and full tank of diesel for only $9,500. It sounded like a great deal, and so the Zetor was purchased second hand from Black Prince Winery.
A major expense for us at the time, we received financing from Micheline’s Mom, who was eager to help us out with our vineyard dreams. We called it “Nanna’s tractor” until the loan got paid off.
Built in 1993 in an old Czech tank factory, the Zetor seemed rather old to me. But when our farming neighbor went over it, he exclaimed, “2700 hours — that’s YOUNG in tractor hours!”.
I drove it home with a big smile on my face, giddy from the diesel fumes. Driving a greasy old machine through the summer heat provided a stark contrast to the sterile air-conditioned office I’d been working in the day before.
No one was ever impressed by our Zetor tractor. In fact, they rather unfairly overlooked its merits. I don’t know why. The fact is, the Zetor faithfully earned back every penny we spent on it – cultivating, mowing and spraying our vineyard, running up and down the rows hundreds of times. Like all old machines, the Zetor is a cantankerous piece of equipment and provided us with entertainment at the most inopportune times. But it has one great advantage over any other tractor: it’s paid for. And over time we learned quite a few tricks that kept the repair guy away. Our Zetor got the job done for six years.
Today the Zetor rests proud beside our new vines, ready to take on any job. But as our neighbour said after our last repair bill “sometimes an old tractor costs more than a new tractor.” So with that wise counsel, we realized that while the Zetor was perfect for us for the first several years, we need to invest in the future of the vineyard. We now have too many vines to farm and too little time to give an older machine the love and attention it requires. And so these are its final days at this vineyard.
There’s a fancy new Italian-made vineyard tractor on our farm. The new McCormick is a beefy little machine with twice the horsepower packed into a frame half the size of the Zetor. It’s an amazing piece of equipment that sets up Broken Stone Winery for future expansion plans. We’ll keep the old machine around for a bit longer while we iron out the kinks with the new machine, but I have a feeling we’ll part ways with the Zetor soon.
We just hope our old friend finds a good home, and that the Zetor’s new owners care for it and understand it the same way we do.