Sadie’s Saga: The Day I Learned to Drive a Tractor

by | Jun 17, 2022 | Intern Report

Throughout the summer, Hallstedt Homestead Cherries’ (HH Cherries) intern Sadie Murphy will share her experiences on the farm — we’re calling it “Sadie’s Saga!” Her first topic: The Day I Learned to Drive a Tractor.

It was a sunny and warm morning when Sarah said to me, “Sadie! Do you want to mow today?” 

After a week of planting flowers and pruning saplings, my confidence as a novice farmer was at an all-time high. “Absolutely!” I replied, figuring the years of watching my dad mow our lawn on his old riding mower was at least enough exposure to develop this skill without any significant issues. But Sarah continued, “… on the tractor?” What a twist, I thought. 

To give full context to my story, here are three things you should know: 

  1. I have never driven a manual car in my life.
  2. My self-confidence occasionally outweighs my practical ability.
  3. I have an overactive imagination and a clear, nagging vision of losing control of the tractor and accidentally mowing down an entire orchard of cherry trees.

Given this information, you can probably guess my state of mind going into the tractoring adventure: simultaneously excited and terrified. When I accepted my internship position at the farm, I pictured myself trying many new things — tractoring included. On the other hand, I was facing something completely foreign to me — a position that was challenging and a little uncomfortable. Luckily, one of my fellow interns, Noah, was trained on the tractor a few weeks before and tasked with transferring this information to yours truly.

The anatomy of a tractor is relatively straightforward. It’s a greasy and an ancient beast with a manual operating system and 9,000 pounds of metal on wheels. It is something you absolutely do not want to lose control of, a risk that was not an insignificant concern of mine.

At first, my drive was a little bumpy. Literally, as I lurched between gears with less grace than I would like to admit…

Clutch, shift to neutral, shift into gear… no, not reverse, that’s reverse… oh god, where in the world is second gear?

And figuratively, as I climbed the steep learning curve towards a new skill. Most of my worries about the tractor surrounded not being immediately good at it, something I’ve had to slowly learn to ignore in a summer full of new experiences. Tractoring was outside of anything I’d ever done before, with the exception of driving an automatic car, an ability that didn’t transfer as directly as I hoped it would. I gained competence little by little as I practiced navigating the machine in flat, open areas (with zero risk of mowing down cherry trees). I worked up to sharper turns and more uneven terrain, but it took a while.

I wasn’t immediately good at tractoring, but the more I experienced it and had fun driving around the orchard, the more I was okay with that. Regardless of how absurd I looked learning to maneuver around trees and small hills, I was having fun and learning something new — this is what ultimately mattered to me.

Once I mowed my assigned areas, and managed to avoid any major catastrophes, I safely drove the tractor back to its home in the barn. I cannot claim to have fully mastered the art of tractoring. But, despite the bumps, I put that beast into park with a sense of accomplishment — leaving behind adequately mown grass and an orchard of unscathed tree

If you are interested in learning more about what our interns are up to on the orchard this summer, we invite you to follow our social pages as we share updates and more of Sadie’s Sagas.