Friends put tractor back on farmer’s land
A special tractor has made a big impact on Nick Sievers’ life, and on the people around him.
When Sievers, of Beresford, S.D., began farming eleven years ago, it was with the help of his old 4520 John Deere.
And when he had to sell it, his friends and neighbors bought it back for him.
The story starts nineteen years ago, after Sievers graduated from South Dakota State University. He had grown up on a farm near Storm Lake, Iowa, and wanted to be involved in farming.
So he moved to South Dakota and worked for a dairy for several years, buying a tractor and haybine. He custom baled the alfalfa, putting his earnings which he put towards his equipment.
In 2009, Nick and his wife Melissa, who married in 2007, began farming, and by then, Nick had purchased the 4520 John Deere. He stayed up the entire night two nights before his wedding, giving the tractor a quick paint job so he and his bride could take wedding pictures from its steps.
The couple raised corn, soybeans and hay, and “I put that thing to work,” Nick said. “I bolted a front end loader on it, pushed snow, hauled hay and manure, pulled out stuck tractors, worked the thing nearly to death,” he said. He rebuilt the transmission on the 1970 model (even though with its adaptations it looks like a later model), and he says it’s on its second or third hour meter.
Then the day came that they decided they needed to quit farming. “A couple of years ago, the writing was on the wall,” he said.
On June 16, Nick took his equipment to the auction site for an online auction. The last item he took was “my first tractor, which was terrible,” he said. “I was doing good, delivering everything to the auction yard. It wasn’t bothering me too much.” But the 4520, which he saved for last, did bother him. “When I backed it in, my heart broke. It crushed me. My wife was there and she helped me say goodbye. It’s not about the tractor, it was what it represented. It was a heartbreaking failure.”
Throughout the day, Nick kept track of the online auction, watching his equipment sell. The 4520 sold pretty well, he thought, with one bidder who could never be outbid, and who eventually purchased the tractor. But with the pseudonyms for bidders’ names, Nick had no idea who purchased his equipment.
That night, he was in the shop, helping a neighbor with a welding project, when his two good friends, Jed Olbertson and Tyler Lewison, drove in. They made small talk, then Jed said, “Nick, you need to go get your tractor.” Nick asked if Jed had purchased it. Jed said, “No, I need you to get YOUR tractor.”
“He pulled out the keys for the 4520,” Nick said, “and set them in my hands and said, we bought your tractor and we’re giving it back to you.
“Time stopped,” Nick said, “and I could hear the air rushing out of my head.”
Jed Olbertson said that more than 100 people went in on the purchase of the 4520. “I’ve lost count,” Olbertson said. “People (Nick) didn’t even know pitched in for this, people he works with, family and friends.”
Nick hugged them both, then they got to work, because the tractor blew a hose on the way home and it needed to be fixed. “The nice part is I got to drive it home,” he said. When he pulled into the yard, neighbors were there for an impromptu gathering.
Nick is a giving guy, and that’s part of the reason his friends pitched in to purchase the tractor back. “There were people I didn’t even realize he knew very well,” Olbertson said, “who found out about it and wanted to give me money and said, oh, he’s done so much for me. He’s always the first guy in line to help somebody who needs a hand.”
Olbertson and Sievers had known each other for fifteen years but became closer friends a few years ago when they teamed up to organize a hay drive for the Kansas producers affected by the wildfires. “That’s when I really got to know Nick and got to know what type of person he is. If he was down to his last dime and somebody needed it more, he’d give it to them,” Olbertson said.
People across the country have responded to the gift of the tractor. Olbertson had a message from a former farm kid from New York who lived in Tennessee and was hauling bees from Texas to North Dakota. The trucker wanted to meet Olbertson along the interstate and give him cash towards the purchase. Even the auctioneer was part of the plan, waiving the buyer’s premium and letting them take the tractor the day of purchase.
“I responded to 100 messages the next day,” Olbertson said. “It’s not a tractor anymore. It’s a treasure.”
Sievers told his friend he didn’t feel like he deserved it, but Olbertson told him “one of his famous quotes,” Sievers said. “Sometimes you throw out bread crumbs and they come floating back as sandwiches.”
The tractor isn’t going anywhere again, Sievers said. He plans on restoring it and running it in parades. And it will go to his sons Owen and Isaac someday. “That thing is a monument in this neighborhood now.”
Olbertson thinks people want to help with the tractor purchase because “everybody wants to be part of something good,” he said. “Everybody’s ready to shoot their TV’s. Nobody’s turning on the news anymore. I just decided that tractor wasn’t leaving.”
Sievers says he has work to do to repay the goodness of his family and friends and people he doesn’t even know. “I gotta get busy doing good deeds,” he said. “That’s how I look at it. I’d better get my good deeds hat on. It’s time to help people as much as possible.”
Olbertson says he was just part of the bigger picture. “It’s interesting to watch people allow themselves to be used as God’s finger to move His stuff around. It’s all God’s stuff. We just get to play with it awhile.”