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  Irons in the fire
By Tom Van Dusen - AgriNews Staff Writer

Several years ago, Henry Staal of North Russell sold off his dairy herd, cleared out his barn... and filled it full of old stuff.

His wife Cora didn't object. Lots of old stuff was cleared from the house as part of the process.

Now there's a man who's serious about his agricultural antiques!

He didn't really give up the herd to make way for the artifacts. Not really! He says the decision to get out of dairy and concentrate on cash-cropping came first. The accumulated stuff was just a handy way to fill an unused barn.

Not everyone believes him. That's because, like so many other tractor and farm antique collectors, Henry is passionate about is hobby and it's conceivable – conceivable, mind you - the decision to set aside high and dry storage for the collection came before the cows got the boot.

Henry has been picking up and restoring stuff for years, from full-sized tractors with a preference for the Minneapolis Moline line – including his rare UDLX Comfortractor which you could drive to town after a hard day of field work - to just about every other piece of equipment you could imagine... and some you couldn't.

As a leading light among Eastern Ontario agricultural antique collectors, it's only logical that Henry would become president of a new organization dedicated to keeping the hobby vibrant.

The group used the recent Ottawa Valley Farm Show to host its inaugural display and was scheduled to hold its first meeting April 2 at Henry's home... after the deadline for this edition of The AgriNews.

That's why we can't tell you what happened at the meeting, including the group's name which was to be officially confirmed. We can tell you it was a toss-up between "Ottawa Valley Flywheelers Association" and "Eastern Ontario Vintage Iron Club".

Both "flywheel" and "iron" refer to key components in many of the items the members seek out and show off.

Their first display took place in an out-of-the-way section of the Civic Centre concourse, one of the farm show venues. Club founders laid out some of their finest mementos, everything from a once-common machine which bashes livestock bones into chicken feed and fertilizer, to a batch of brass blowtorches and a pack of polished wood and steel pulleys, to a battered old snowmobile.

Henry explained that members of the new organization are dedicated to enhancing their hobby, while at the same time reminding those who may have forgotten - or perhaps never knew - about the region's rural heritage.

While the main accent of the new group is on machines of yesteryear, its members also want to preserve fading crafts and customs.

Vice-president Gary Montgomery pointed out that the mission is to collect, preserve, and promote farm equipment from bygone days.

The focus, he said, is not just on products which were used in the barns and in the fields, but also on ones such as spinning wheels and gramophones which were used in kitchens and in other locations inside the farmhouse.

Farm antique clubs have existed in the region in the past, but none are active at the moment, Henry said. Founding members of the new group decided it was important to fill the void and revitalize interest in rural memorabilia.

More than 20 collectors are already involved. Among them, they own thousands of pieces of vintage farm machinery and household items. Henry alone owns hundreds of articles which he stores rafter-high in the former dairy barn.

Another prominent member of the group is Francois Latour who's coordinating the antique display for the 2011 International Plowing Match to be held east of Hawkesbury Sept. 20-24.

Latour will rely on members of the new group to help him create a display of at least 400 entries and a total of more than 1,000 separate items at the annual IPM which rotates around the province and traditionally features a large antique section.

The exhibit, he said, will highlight through the machinery and tools which made possible the contribution of our agricultural forefathers to the wellbeing of this region.

Sounds like a worthy cause, doesn't it?



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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