There’s more than animals and plants happening in the Oakdale High School Ag Department. The ever growing, award winning Ag Department of OHS has taken on tractor restoration under the leadership of Department Chair and instructor Isaac Robles.
“We started a couple years ago with two tractors,” Robles said, noting one was previously completed and shown at the Stanislaus County Fair. The 1951 Ford tractor was donated to the school and did not run at the time. It was also driven in this year’s Homecoming Parade this past October.
“The way it all started, was ... I’ve always wanted to do tractor restoration with the kids,” Robles confessed, recognizing the unique niche of students this applies to and the marketable knowledge it gives them.
“They get to learn that process of tearing one down completely and putting it back together completely,” he said.
The most recent project has been with a 1941 Farmall A tractor that the enthusiast found via Craigslist for the bargain price of $150. Excited by his discovery, Robles contacted the seller and learned of its history from the son of its last owner.
Located in the Santa Cruz mountains, the tractor had sat in the place it was last parked on the family ranch over 30 years ago. The son was just simply looking to get rid of it. Once he learned of Robles’ endeavor, he lowered the price to $50.
“It was on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a million dollar view,” Robles said of the once rusted red tractor.
“We went through the whole thing,” he continued. “This was a nut and bolt restoration. We took it down to the bare bits and pieces that we could. Went through everything.”
The results of that tear down are not just impressive, but gained the attention of the California IH Collectors Foundation. Representatives from the foundation recently visited OHS and made a generous contribution to ensure completion of the project.
“This tractor is our 37th project,” IH Collectors President, Roger Lubiens said via e-mail.
“The tractor had a rusty beginning when I saw it a year ago,” he continued, “but Ag Advisor/teacher Isaac Robles and his dedicated FFA students have brought this tractor a long ways in the last year.”
Robles shared funding for the tractor restorations in the past had come courtesy of the Oakdale Educational Foundation grant process. Funds as great as $5,000 were granted to the department by OEF in the past two years. With OEF disbanding, Robles said support from groups like Lubiens’ are more valuable now than ever before.
“I think what’s going to happen at some point is we’re going to start selling them,” the instructor said. “We’re going to have to. Partly because we don’t have a place to put them all.”
With the growth of the school farm, Robles shared there will be space in the big barn, but not for them all. Sale of the tractors, however, will not yield the money spent to restore. The value in the restoration comes in the hands on learning the students are getting in basic mechanics on machinery which requires more than the modern day tractor.
“Most of the kids that are working on this, are more the kids that want to go into the mechanical field, more than the fabrication field. They’re really enjoying it,” Robles shared.
He added that this is more of the trade focus which the District has equally put emphasis on. Students learning to work on the older models is a true opportunity. In a day and age of tractors equipped with GPS and computer technology, it’s increasingly hard for farmers to find people who have worked on older models.
“We did tear it down to absolutely nothing,” Robles said of the nearly completed Ford.
While funds for restoration will be a need as time evolves, the department is not at a loss for tractors to work on. The advisor shared the generosity of the ag community by way of tractor donation has been helpful.
Varying types, models and ages can now be found in the yard of the OHS Ag Department. Projects waiting to be started. Through Lubiens a connection was made which resulted in acquisition of another tractor.
Robles shared that during the tear down process of the tractor, many things are discovered. In the case of the Santa Cruz tractor the group discovered it had originated from Stanislaus Implement Company, based out of Modesto. A fun discovery, to say the least as they went through the restoration.
Upon receiving the recent Potterville donation with the assistance from Lubiens, the Ag group learned it was not only also from Stanislaus Implement Company, but its serial number was just four off from the Santa Cruz project.
“They had to have been made the same day,” Robles said,
“We’ve seen a lot of growth, obviously in the Ag program in the last few years,” he added. “The one area where we haven’t seen as much growth in is the Ag mechanics.”
As the interest in the restoration projects continues to grow, Robles has hopes that it will eventually be incorporated directly into the curriculum.
“I think for a lot of these guys, this is their introduction,” he said of the handful of students who currently show interest in the projects. “I think the biggest thing is the experience in working in depth on something.”
Community members or organizations interested in additional information or making a financial donation to the projects may contact Robles at email@example.com.