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A rusty old tractor and passion drives a young farm mechanic into family history

And he just might just win $10,000

For freshman Brandon Pyper, a passion for farming might just run in the genes.

Though both of Brandon’s great-grandparents were no longer farming by the time he was old enough to help out on the farm, stories of the family dairy and celery farms are still told to the younger generations.

“Farming was a big part of our family’s history,” Brandon’s mom, Kim Pyper said. “Something that we still remember and still has an impact.”

Brandon is a freshman at Caledonia High School involved with the FFA

She described taking him to an agricultural youth fair as a young child, where he got hooked on farm life. “He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, I really want to do this,” Kim Pyper said. “He was set on it right then and there.”

Brandon is continuing the family farming legacy himself, raising two steers, four pigs and chickens of his own. He has also spent time working on a local dairy farm.

As part of his newest agriculture-related challenge, Brandon is participating in the national Delo Tractor Restoration Competition. His Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor, John Schut, encouraged him to pursue this year-long project. For this competition, Brandon will completely restore an antique tractor to working condition, from the engine and transmission, to auxiliary systems and even its looks.

“I am basically taking it apart and putting it back together in running condition,” Brandon said. “There is a lot of work to be done.” The entire project will take about a year to complete and he hopes to be ready to enter the competition by August of 2021.

To have a chance at winning, Brandon must document the entire process, from the initial condition to all the work he does and the final condition, putting it all into a workbook. He will also need to complete expense, labor and safety reports, a short video of the tractor running and a photo collection of the finished project.

Family help and history

Fortunately, he isn’t completely on his own during the restoration. His father is a mechanic and his grandpa has worked on tractors as well. Brandon said, “I’ve never done anything like this before, so having that help is really great.”

While looking for the right tractor to restore, the Pypers did some digging into their farming heritage to determine what tractors were used on both the dairy and celery farms. They then connected with Randy Marklevitz, from the Michigan chapter of the International Harvester Collectors Club.

Marklevitz is an experienced restoration enthusiast and owns several tractors in need of repair. As a result of this match, Brandon was able to take home a 1953 Farmall Super H in need of some TLC. He also took home a second tractor for parts.

With schools in distance learning mode, he has plenty of time right now to focus on the restoration project. We’re doing a lot of research,” Brandon said, “figuring out the best way to go about this.”

The restored tractor will be entered in the Delo Tractor Restoration Contest

Preparing for his future

The total cost for restoring an antique tractor can be upwards of $10,000, so he’ll be seeking some help in the community to get started. And if he wins, he could take home that same amount as Grand Champion of the Delo competition. The Reserve Champion receives $5,000 and third place $3,000.

After the tractor is running and complete, he’ll enter it in parades to show it off and then use it for odd jobs around the house, he said. And if he wins, he’ll pay off the restoration and save some money for his education.

The project is teaching skills he can use, as he plans to be an agricultural mechanic. “I like working on mechanical things and the agricultural side of things too, so I figured why not combine all of this for a career and for this project.

“I am really excited to see the finished product.”

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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.


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