By Sara Clausen, Director of Communications & Member Relations
If you asked what the turning point was for modern farming, many would say the tractor, of course! In fact, the first two successful gasoline tractors were built and sold in 1892 by John Froelich who lived in northeast Iowa. From there though, it took the Hart Parr Gasoline Engine Company of Charles City, IA a decade to formally give the machine the name “tractor”.
It’s this rich history and love for antique machinery that literally fuels the fire for father/son farmers, Dave & Mike Kalsem of Huxley. Farming all their lives and using many brands of tractors, they have always been particularly fond of Olivers. For more than 50 years, their family has been farming with Oliver tractors; even using one to deliver grain to the Kelley elevator this harvest.
“I enjoyed visiting the tractor booths at the Iowa State Fair and Oliver always put on a great display, said Dave, “The first Oliver I got was because of the fair – we needed the power take-off feature and found it there.” For Mike though, it all started when he was in 4-H. One year he restored a small lawnmower engine, later followed by a tractor; an Oliver purchased from Zearing, IA. In the early 80’s Mike bought his very first Oliver. “I gave nine, $100 bills for that tractor,” said Mike proudly, “It was the earnings from the sale of my 4-H cattle that year.”
Flipping through pages upon pages in a photo book, Mike shared his excitement and passion for the family farm…and Olivers. The photos told the entire story of the Kalsem Century Farm. From horse drawn plows, to that first Oliver 77, to the introduction of hydraulic equipment and on to their first 8-row planter – the Kalsem’s had it all documented with pride.
At one point, some photos were transferred into slides for the family to view and share with others. “Dad would set up the slideshow and we would watch it eating popcorn,” said Mike, “I was just fascinated to hear his story and see the images of all the machines.” In high school, most kids would stay after school for sports practice but Mike would eagerly rush home to run equipment, tend to cattle or fiddle with a tractor.
Captivated by Olivers all his life, Mike went on to serve as the president for the Iowa Oliver Collectors club and for more than a decade now the Kalsem’s have hosted plow & threshing days for the community featuring their more than 30 Olivers.