Farm Horizons, May 2009

Hamburg farmer collects wheatlands

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

It’s tractors, tractors, and more tractors at the Jerome Bergmann farm in Hamburg. Bergmann has a collection of about 20 wheatland tractors.

The number of tractors he has at one time varies because he is continuously buying and selling them.

“I sold three in the last month – two John Deere and a Case,” Bergmann said. “I wanted to get something different so I got paid and took the money and used it to buy another tractor.”

The color of the tractor doesn’t make any difference to Bergmann, although many of his are green. What Bergmann likes is the wheatland tractor.

Sometimes known as western specials, the wheatlands are a big standard axle tractor with wide fenders, a nonadjustable wide front end, and built a little lower to the ground then other tractors.

“They were made for the prairie, from here on west,” Bergmann said. “They were even more popular in the Dakotas. There aren’t too many around this area.”

To farm his more than 900 acres of cropland, he uses some modern John Deere equipment, including some newer John Deere tractors. But for his collection, he likes to find 1960 to about 1972 wheatlands. He currently owns Case, International, John Deere, Minneapolis Moline, and Oliver tractors.

“I kind of like them all,” Bergmann said.

While Bergmann has an interest in all tractors, he has found the John Deere to be the most popular and the easiest to sell.

“Fifty percent of tractors sold are John Deere,” Bergmann said. “You can get more money if you want to sell it. If you were to sell a Case and a John Deere tractor at the same time, the John Deere would sell right away and probably for twice as much money.”

“It is the green paint and the name that is a big deal,” Bergmann said.

Bergmann has been collecting tractors since 1972, when he was still in high school. His first tractor was a John Deere D. He got it in exchange for painting a ‘55 Chevrolet.

“I painted it, used it in a pulling contest, and it just sat in the shed,” Bergmann said. “So I sold it.”

“I used to have a lot of the older tractors, but you couldn’t use them for anything. They were two cylinders and they were too old. I like to try and use them all a little bit if I can.”

While some collectors like to keep their tractors original, Bergmann likes to restore his.

He started painting tractors when he was about 11 years old. At the time, his father worked for an implement dealer in Green Isle. His dad would bring home some of the older equipment and Jerome would help paint it.

From there, he moved on to painting cars. At 15 years old, he bought his first car, a 1939 Chevrolet, for $125 and painted it. He has been collecting cars all of his life and has a collection of classic cars that look like they just came off the showroom floor.

“The cars are always harder to come by and getting more expensive, so I have switched to tractors,” Bergmann said.

He remembers where each of the tractors have come from and lots of history about them.

He started his collection with Case tractors because it was what his dad, Willard, used for farming.

“The first couple I bought, I was using them for farming, but then as you got newer tractors, you would just keep the older ones,” Bergmann said. He has an 830, 930, and 1030 Case.

Bergmann’s tractor collection includes the John Deere series 10 and 20 tractors, of which he is only missing the John Deere 2020.

There has been an interest in Bergmann’s tractors from all over, and some of his tractors have appeared in the Green Magazine, a John Deere monthly publication.

His John Deere 1010 came from Alabama. “It’s a single row crop diesel that was used on a tobacco farm,” Bergmann said.

His 2010 came from Stewart and was used on a golf course for 25 years. He also has a 3010, 4010 and a 5010.

In his 20 series, he has the 1020, which was the smallest John Deere made at the time, all the way up to a 7520.

His 7520 was John Deere’s first attempt at a four-wheel drive. The 7520 had been used on a farm in Glencoe and when the farmer traded it in, the salesman came to tell Bergmann he had another tractor to add to his collection. The tractor only had 4,200 actual hours on it.

A 1960 Oliver in his collection was the largest horse-powered tractor for its time, with a dust shield, door and steps to get into the tractor.

Six months later, Allis Chalmers came out with a tractor with more horsepower, according to Bergmann. He doesn’t have that one – yet.

Bergmann’s favorite tractor in his collection is the John Deere 5010, and one of his own creations. He found the tractor in a salvage yard and put a V12 engine it. The engine came out of a Twin Cities basement, where it was used to run a stationary generator.

To accommodate the V12, Bergmann had to extend the front end of the 5010 by 14 inches.

Willard calls Jerome’s 5010, “a jewel.”

Bergmann has plans to do a similar project with a V16 engine that came out of North Carolina, used in a generator to run a hospital.

“I have a G1000 Minneapolis Moline Vista with a Detroit conversion in it and I am going to put the V16 into the Moline,” Bergmann said.

It isn’t that Bergmann isn’t able to keep busy on his own projects, but he has also taken on a few projects for his neighbors, as well.

During this interview, Jerry Schimelfenig, who lives east of Norwood Young America, stopped by to pay Bergmann for painting his 3020 John Deere.

Schimelfenig has a John Deere B he would like Bergmann to paint for him next, whenever he has the time.

When it comes to painting, “He (Bergmann) is the best in the west,” Schimelfenig said.

Bergmann is just finishing up a 1970 Oliver that has a V8 caterpillar engine. Its engine is unique, according to Bergmann.

“It was a General Motors engine builder, in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, who came up with this two-cycle engine,” Bergmann said. “It was going to be their claim to fame.”

With a very long list of future projects, he will never have to worry about what to do next. He just bought an International tractor off the Internet and he has plans to restore it, along with a John Deere 3020 Hi-Crop he got from California, used in tomato fields, and another Case ready to move up into his shop for painting.

Bergmann has farmed his entire life in Hamburg on land that was owned by his great-grandparents. He attended school at Emmanuel Lutheran School until eighth grade, where he is now a trustee on the board, and then attended Central High School.

He is married to Jolene, and they have one daughter, Jinnah, who recently married Dennis Westlund of Mayer.

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