Jeff Johns furrows another row with agricultural relic,
a horse-drawn steel plow
Jeff Johns of Lonesome Valley Farms in Pennsylvania had the horses. He had land that needed to be plowed. And he had worries that rising fuel costs would eat into his already thin profit margin.
So he’s doing what farmers did long before the tractor came along — he’s using his two draft horses to power a plow.
And he’s loving every minute of it.
Johns said, “It’s something about getting behind that team of horses that slows life down to the way it ought to be.”
Johns is joining the ranks of a growing number of farmers who are cutting fuel costs by going back in time.
In 1900, farmers relied completely on animal power. There were 21.6 million work animals used on American farms then, according to a 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
With mechanization came change. By 1960, the last year the government kept statistics, only 3 million horses and mules were being used for farm work. The rest had been replaced by 4.7 million tractors used at that time.
However, due to the rising cost of fuel, work animals are making a comeback.
Johns bought a ride-on plow from an Amish equipment dealer over the winter with the idea that he was going to use his two male draft horses — Arley and Star — to plow.
He’s already used draft horses for years for hayrides and carriage rides.
“We figured we’d plow as much as we can with the horses this spring because that’s less fuel we have to pay for,” Johns said.
“Every furrow I can turn with those horses helps,” he said.
The Amish have always had a special relationship between their horses and the cultivation of the earth.
Another Pennsylvania farmer, Burt Mulhollem, says using horses just makes sense.
“If I was to go out and work my tractor hard all day long, it would cost me $100, and I don’t have it,” Mulhollem said.
“I have the horses here so I may as well use them, and that don’t cost me nothing because I’ve got them here anyhow. And they give me manure back for the ground.”
Other farmers, particularly those who already have horses and mules, are expected to join him.
Re-written from Pittsburgh Tribune