By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — When Haley Myers, a 16-year-old sophomore in Heyworth High School’s FFA chapter, got involved with restoring a 50-year-old Ford 601 Workmaster series tractor, she learned much more than the nuts and bolts of how the machine operates.
“I learned that when you put your heart into something, that you can get things done. With FFA that’s what you learn – leadership skills and qualities. The restoration was basically about teamwork,” said Myers, who was at the 31st Greater Peoria Farm Show on Nov. 29, 2012, to sell raffle tickets for the restored tractor, along with FFA member Erik Halberg, a 14-year-old freshman, and FFA student teacher Kara Watson.
“You really don’t see the Workmaster much at shows. I had never seen one before,” said Watson, a graduate of Illinois State University who is considering a career in ag education.
She was quick to credit Heyworth FFA Advisor Jestun Nutter, who has led a tractor restoration project for his students nearly every year since 2005, when Heyworth High’s FFA chapter was rechartered after a nearly 30-year absence.
“This has been Jestun’s ongoing project. He finds the tractors and the kids restore them every year to be raffled,” said Watson. “Last year we brought in around just over $14,000.”
The tractor will be offered for raffle over the course of the coming year at the Western Illinois University Farm Show, Gordyville, Pennfield Historic Farm Days and the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, among other venues. “We’ll travel all over with it,” said Watson.
Halberg said he enjoyed the hands-on experience he gleaned from participating in the restoration project, his first as an FFA member.
“I rubbed paint thinner on parts before they were sandblasted. We mixed primer with paint thinner and primed some of the pieces, and we mixed the red paint and painted other pieces. We had to wear paint suits and gloves and masks,” said Halberg, adding the entire restoration process occupied much of the past year.
Proceeds from the raffle go toward scholarships for Heyworth FFA’s most active members and costs associated with attending the annual National FFA Convention. The winner is drawn each year during the chapter’s Community Dinner in Heyworth.
“When it was done, you felt you had done something that can affect your life,” Myers said of the restoration process.
Some 54 kids comprise the Heyworth FFA chapter, which has won 17 various FFA state championships since its resurrection in 2005. Heyworth High School is home to some 200 students and is located in McLean County in central Illinois.
Those interested in purchasing raffle tickets can contact Nutter through the school at 309-473-2322.