Americana on display with vintage machinery 

(Left) Michael Hinton is pictured with Larry Matlack whose 1976 model Case 1570 is featured on the cover of the Heritage Iron Magazine 2024 calendar. Hinton, who has a passion for antique machinery, took the photo earlier this year. (Courtesy photo.)

A passion for agriculture is easily detected in the voice of Michael Hinton, Hutchinson, Kansas, and the words flow with ease as he describes an American success story—the farm tractors and those who use them. 

Hinton’s photo of a 1976 Case 1570 tractor with its multi-color paint scheme known to commemorate the bicentennial year captured the hearts of ag enthusiasts and graced the cover of the Heritage Iron Magazine 2024 calendar. The tractor is owned by Larry Matlack, founder of Stinger Inc., Burrton, Kansas, a family-owned company specializing in building equipment for moving hay for feed and biomass. 

Not only was it a breathtaking photo as with most vintage machines it has a story. The Spirit of ’76 tractor was driven by Karl Matlack’s uncle Stan and Larry 1,200 miles from Burrton to Washington, D.C., as part of the 1979 American Ag Movement Tractorcade. At the time the Matlacks had two of the Case 1570 bicentennial tractors on their farm. 

Hinton is director of sales and marketing for AgTrax, a Hutchinson-based grain accounting and bin management software provider. The company’s solutions are used to track grain inventories for cooperative and elevator operations, designed to also support farmers with on-the-farm bins and storage systems. He has been with the company for more than three years. 

Hinton was born and raised in Kansas and grew up on a hobby farm in rural Harvey County. His parents, Mary Sue Voth, of Newton, and the late Harry Hinton, Jr., had horses, sheep, ducks, chickens, and farm animals. What fascinated Hinton, besides the farm animals, was the wheat fields on each side of the family homestead. 

“I saw agriculture 365 around us,” he said, remembering and marveling at all the operations it took to raise a crop. 

Rekindled thoughts

Hinton, 57, credits his wife, Tonya, for rekindling his interest in tractors more than 30 years ago. She is from Peabody, Kansas, and her father, Lawrence Jury, had accumulated an impressive Farmall machinery collection that fascinated Michael. Jury was generous with his time in sharing his expertise with his son-in-law. 

As part of his career, Michael and Tonya, along with their daughter, Melissa, moved several times, but he credits a stay in West Plains, Missouri, where he honed his taste for antique machinery. 

Their home was in the country with a picturesque setting in the Mark Twain National Forest. Because of the hilly terrain with grass and rocks the property needed TLC, Hinton said. 

“I thought to myself I’m going to get myself a tractor,” he said, adding his wife enthusiastically agreed and they purchased a 1949 Farmall Cub with a belly mower. “It was stout.” 

It became an extended family affair as his father-in-law readily helped Hinton when it needed work. A snow-plow attachment came in handy because of the quarter-mile drive Michael and Tonya lived on. 

Owning Farmalls was now ingrained in Michael. 

His next addition was a 1942 Farmall H with a front-end loader. It was in pristine condition as he remembered buying it sight unseen based on photographs. Hinton remembers writing a three-page buyer’s contract and mailing it to the owners, Miles and Mary Grandon, a retired Aplington, Iowa, farm couple. 

The farmer called Hinton and said, “Michael, we got your contract in the mail for the tractor,” and added that such formalities were not part of their DNA. “We’re just farmers from rural Iowa.” 

Hinton told him it was the first time he had ever written a contract for a tractor and the farmer told Michael, “I’ll guarantee the tractor. I’ll sign it but I’ve never did it that way.” 

Hinton said the Grandons had the tractor delivered, and to him the story itself was a treasure just like the Farmall H that he quickly fell in love with. 

It spurred him to go out and purchase a 1960 Farmall 340 wide front tractor. 

Growing with the web

Hinton craved to learn more about Farmalls and tractors of yesterday. He began amassing a collection of sources for antique tractor parts. He joined International Harvester clubs where he found other enthusiastic collectors had questions about the history, design and engineering, and parts availability of the tractors that were at one time the iron horses used to cultivate and feed the world. 

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While in West Plains, he built a website and with the help of sponsorships, it led the tourism director of the community to contact Hinton and ask him if he could help with an antique tractor show. The first one was successfully launched in 2010. 

Hinton is quick to credit Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon who gave him generous support, along with Missouri Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. Gov. Nixon proclaimed Antique Tractor Preservation Days in September 2010, 2011, and 2012. Rep. Emerson announced in April 2011, that Antique Tractor Preservation Day was recorded in the Congressional Record. 

“This was all created because of my Farmall Cub,” Hinton said with a chuckle. 

Telling the story

A job change in agriculture meant Michael and Tonya had to sell their home and move to Mankato, Minnesota. As part of his job requirement, his supervisor asked Michael to focus on his new duties which meant shutting down the website. His passion was still alive when he and his family brought the three tractors from Missouri to Minnesota. 

However, they were renting a home about 20 miles outside of Mankato and that meant a commute to work that did not leave him much time to work with the tractors. 

“We enjoyed Minnesota, but the winters were somewhat harsh,” he said. The couple made the decision to sell their three tractors—two went to Iowa and one stayed in Minnesota. 

About three years ago, Michael and Tonya decided to move back to Kansas to be closer to home, family, and friends. 

Hinton never forgot the contributions of his father-in-law. A quiet man, he had worked at KPL, a utility company, for many years, and as a Father’s Day gift this past June, the Hinton’s took Jury to Grand Island, Nebraska, for the Red Power Roundup tractor show, where more than 400 Farmall tractors were on display. 

What Hinton found most enjoyable was the time spent visiting with tractor owners and enthusiasts. Friendships were quickly established. He and his father-in-law enjoyed the conversations and the bonding created a relatable experience with extended family. 

As part of the event, Hinton lined up Jury for an interview with himself and the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, Farm Broadcaster of the Year, Lorrie Boyer. His father-in-law talked about his own Farmall collection and Hinton was proud of his father-in-law as he explained his passion. That experience led to an interview with Grass and Grain, a Manhattan, Kansas-based farm and ranch publication, and with the Marion County Record. 

“My father-in-law didn’t know what he was getting himself into,” Hinton said. 

Hinton said his father-in-law embodies what preservation is about. “It’s a passion of mine and with my Midwest background it all personifies America.” 

Farmall just celebrated a century of existence, Hinton said. Such milestones are important to tell about yesteryear’s machinery but also the innovation that occurred then and continues today. 

As he learned from the late Roger Welsch, known for his “Postcards from Nebraska” segments on the popular CBS Sunday News program; and NAFB Hall of Fame Inductee and farm broadcaster Max Armstrong; that telling the stories of agriculture past in a compelling manner helps to build the future. Those and other influences have helped him to better understand the phrase most associated with him, “Distinguished Kansan, Founder of Antique Tractor Preservation Day, and America’s Premier Antique Tractor Enthusiast.” 

And don’t be surprised if Hinton restarts his own collection. 

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].