At the end of the growing season, when the corn and soy beans are ready to be gathered, Nathan Kroeger is eager to get to work.
For Kroeger, who was raised on a family farm northeast of Carroll, the fall harvest is his favorite part of the season.
“You bring in what you’ve grown that whole year, and it’s just an accomplishment of making it through that whole year of the growing season,” he said.
Kroeger, 17, a Carroll High School student and the president of the Carroll Area Future Farmers of America, has helped grow the corn and soybeans on his family’s century-old farm since he can remember.
Growing up working in the field, Kroeger always was fascinated by farming equipment and machines. But when it came time to put everything back together after toying with it — well, that was the tricky part, he said.
“I’ve always liked tinkering with little things and tearing them apart,” Kroeger said. “I usually don’t get them back together.”
But when his family brought home his grandpa’s 1945 John Deere B tractor, Kroeger knew it was a project he needed to complete.
“After the (Iowa) State Fair last year, I really wanted to have one, because they were so cool, so I pulled it out and started working on it,” he said.
Beginning last August, Kroeger and his dad Kevin spent most of their afternoons after school as well as weekends working to restore the old tractor.
They had never done anything like it before, Kroeger said, so a lot of time was spent watching YouTube videos or flipping through the tractor’s manual.
By July, it was ready.
Kroeger entered the tractor into a restored tractor competition at the Iowa State Fair and received a recognition for reserve champion for tractors from 1958 and prior, he said.
“It was really cool, because you get to have a day with a whole group of people that have restored tractors,” he said. “Older farmers recognize that tractor, remember they had one and tell you stories, (and) being able to talk to them and hear their stories is really cool.”
Kroeger said he loved being able to learn how to rebuild and restore the old tractor, and although he learned a lot, he also felt a sense of pride in the project, he said.
“Some of it was the family aspect and saying ‘I restored this, and it was my grandpa’s,’ ” he said. “It was really cool. That was a lot of my ambition.”
Kroeger also exhibited six projects in six different divisions of the FFA this year at the state fair, said Brady Eischeid, the Carroll High School eighth-through-12th-grade ag and FFA instructor.
His entries included: goats, rabbits, ag mechanics, farm crops, horticulture and photography. In addition, Kroeger received awards for grand champion indoor woodworking, grand champion outdoor woodworking and reserve champion small metalworking in the ag mechanics division. Kroeger’s entries qualified him for 2019 FFA parade of champions, where he also will display his restored tractor, Eischeid said.
During his time as an FFA member and its president, Eischeid said Kroeger has shown tremendous leadership skills that will be hard to match after he graduates from high school.
“Nathan is a perfect example of an extremely active FFA member,” he said. “He attends every chapter event (and many district and state events as well). He’s usually one of the first members to show up, and he’s always one of the last to leave.”