Seymour FFA students drive tractors to school


Many Seymour High School students have the privilege of driving themselves to school.

But only a few get to drive tractors.

On March 5, five students left their cars and trucks at home for the opportunity to drive a tractor to school. It’s a longstanding tradition among the school’s agriculture and FFA students, and it only happens once a year.

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“This has been done as long as anyone can remember,” said ag teacher and FFA adviser Jeanna Eppley. “Back in the day, students would bring tractors and implements to work on at the school farm.”

Those participating in Drive Your Tractor to School Day this year were R.J. Beavers, Adam Newkirk, Alexus Morris, Luke Lanam and Tyler Schafstall.

“We have more and less on some years,” Eppley said. “Schedules, activities and availability of tractors is a part of it. Also, the number of students with access to a tractor is lower than it used to be.”

Through a work-based learning internship at Wright Implement in Seymour, Beavers has been gaining practical experience with tractors.

The business, located at Second Street and Community Drive, just east of the high school campus, let him borrow a John Deere 8245R.

“It was a little different, a lot bigger, for sure,” Beavers said. “You definitely get more looks, for sure. I just think people are not used to seeing tractors on a daily basis.”

Now a junior, Beavers has been a member of FFA since the summer of his freshman year, but this was his first year to drive a tractor to school.

“I grew up around agriculture and wanted to try something new,” he said of being in FFA. “I figured I would like it, and I have so far. I like competing in the leadership contests.”

Morris, a senior, was the only girl to participate.

“It was definitely a lot more fun driving the tractor than riding in a car,” she said. “Most people seemed to think it was pretty cool, but there’s always that one person.”

Although she’s comfortable driving a tractor on a farm, driving it to school was a whole new experience, she added.

“It was kind of stressful going through town,” she said.

Unlike the other green John Deere and red Case tractors, Morris drove a yellow Cat Challenger MT765. It took her about 45 minutes to make the 10-mile trip.

“It would usually take us 15 minutes,” she said.

Morris started driving farm equipment when she was 4.

“I had to learn to drive the tractors to help my dad on the farm,” she said.

This is her third year in FFA and her first year to drive a tractor to school.

Being in FFA is a tradition in her family, and she said she enjoys competing in the public speaking contests and events.

Eppley said the kids enjoy Drive Your Tractor to School Day, and it’s a tradition no one wants to give up. Historically, it has been held during FFA Week in February but is now in the spring.

“After many consecutive years of winter weather, cold temperatures and the fact it is still so dark at that time of year, we have been conducting it during the spring and using it as a platform to spread the word that we all share the road,” she said.

Beavers said it takes time to get used to driving a tractor, and there are precautions to take to prevent damage or injuries.

“I like driving something that big,” he said. “You just have to make sure you pay attention to your surroundings because people don’t understand a tractor can’t move like a car can. You can’t just pull over all the time. You’ve got to know where you are going at all times as well to make sure the tractor fits.”

Other motorists should be aware and considerate of tractors and other farm equipment on the roads.

“Calm down and follow at a safe distance,” he advised.

Eppley agreed.

“Everyone is in a hurry to get where they are going, and that includes farmers who may be battling Mother Nature’s timeline to get the crop in,” she said.

To keep having Drive Your Tractor to School Day, Eppley said there are safety rules students must follow.

“These students respect the large equipment and follow all those procedures,” she said. “For example, making sure the tractor is equipped with proper lighting and slow-moving vehicle signs.”

Morris said anyone driving a tractor has to be more cautious than they would be driving a car.

“Wider turns, farther off the road, not as fast, more stopping room, there’s a lot to keep in mind,” she said.

But other motorists can help make it safer by pulling off the road and giving tractors plenty of room.

The school’s ag department is starting a tractor operation safety and training program in the fall, where students will learn how to operate and maintain a tractor. Students will have the opportunity to use the department’s new Case tractor that is being leased for $1 through a Case agricultural education program sponsored by Jacobi Sales in Seymour.

Learning to drive a tractor also has helped out Beavers’ family, he said.

“We use a tractor for everything around the farm,” he said.

Driving a tractor is nothing like driving a car, though, he added.

“It’s way bigger, way heavier and way slower,” he said.

Schafstall, a freshman, said driving a tractor to school is both interesting and fun.

“It amazes me at how people react to farm equipment on the roads,” he said. “Some people can be positive, but many have a negative reaction, and I think we should educate people on how to be aware and courteous with farm machinery.”

Driving a John Deere 4630 the 10 miles to get to school, he said he got a lot of looks from other motorists.

“At 7 a.m. in the morning, people are rushing to get to work and want to get around us, but we can’t get over until we have a place that we can pull off safely and let them around,” he said.

Tractors have interested Schafstall since he was very young. He has been in FFA for three years, starting in seventh grade at Seymour Middle School.

“I’ve been driving my dad’s John Deere 316 lawnmower since I was 5,” he said. “I’ve been driving big farm equipment since I was 8.”

But this was his first year driving a tractor to school.

It can be a little scary, he said.

“All the other people think they have the right of way,” he said. “Just keep in mind, we are the ones that feed you, and the farmer will tell you when you can pass safely.”

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Tips for motorists

Be alert and always watch for slow-moving vehicles, especially during planting and harvest seasons.

Be patient and do not assume the equipment operator can move aside to let you pass. The shoulder may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle.

Slow down as soon as you see the triangular-shaped, red and fluorescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem.

Tips for farm vehicle operators

Make your intentions known when you are turning by using signal lights or the appropriate hand signal in advance of the turn.

Drive slow-moving vehicles in the right-hand lane as close to the edge of the roadway as safely possible. Traveling partially on the shoulder may cause motorists to risk passing in a dangerous situation.

Avoid encouraging or signaling motorists to pass. Pull over where it is safe, and let the traffic go by.

Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train extends three feet beyond the tracks on both sides.


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