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Early Spring HOWA 2010

Office by Day, Orchard by Night

Indiana hobby farmer wins a Bobcat CT235 tractor and implements package

An urban planner by day and hobby farmer by night, John Shepherd of Porter, Ind., won the grand prize in the 2009 Great Bobcat Tractor Pull contest. Shepherd submitted the winning entry and received a new Bobcat® CT235 compact tractor and implement package in November 2009.

Shepherd considers himself an outdoor enthusiast; his wife, Kristin, enjoys the amenities of a big city. John and Kristin came to a compromise in 1992 and bought 25 acres within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. "My wife is a city girl, and I'm kind of country," Shepherd wrote in his winning contest entry. "We found middle ground on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, about an hour's train ride to Chicago for her."

John Shepherd

John and Kristin Shepherd were selected as the grand prize winners of the 2009 Great Bobcat Tractor Pull contest. They received a Bobcat CT235 compact tractor, auger, tiller and box blade, for use on their hobby farm.

Fondness for farming

Shepherd's interest in farming dates back to his youth when he spent summers on his grandparents' farm and with a great uncle who raised bees. As he grew older and launched his career in urban planning, he always had a fondness for the rural life and small farms. Eventually Shepherd desired to create his own, which led to growing an orchard in 2001, followed by harvesting beehives.

Today the fruit tree orchard contains 400 trees and Shepherd maintains 12 beehives. There are 350 apple trees and the rest are a mixture of peach, cherry and pear. He describes them as semi-dwarfs that take about five years to begin bearing fruit, and eight years for commercial-quality fruit. He chose the semi-dwarf trees because he says they produce more apples per unit of wood. He plants them closer together than larger produce trees and the result is more volume per tree. "They're easier to prune and pick," he explains. His apple trees feature some popular types, including Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Kandil Sinap.

The property is now a popular attraction for locals or out-of-town visitors who want to experience a small farm and pick their own apples — at no charge. "Some of my friends are schoolteachers and they love to bring the kids out," he says." It's a different way to get students interested in history — they get a chance to taste the different varieties and learn about them in person."

John Shepherd

The compact frame of the Bobcat CT235 (just 55 inches wide) enables John Shepherd to easily access restricted areas. Three-point hitch implements, such as the auger, will help plant new trees at the Shepherd orchard.

Much of Shepherd's spare time is spent in his orchard. "There is always something to be done," he says. "My orchard is where I find solace and recreation after a full day of urban planning responsibilities. During the day I am an urban professional and in the afternoon or evening, I come home, put on my jeans and head out to become a farmer."

A 1952, 13-horsepower McCormick Farmall tractor was his only mechanized help until last fall. He knew he needed a more powerful tractor to operate implements and a model that was heavier to pull wagons and his sprayer when the ground was wet. His search led him to the Bobcat website where he entered the Great Bobcat Tractor Pull contest. "When I entered the contest I didn't expect to win," he says. "It seemed like a good thing to do, and it's been very exciting to win the new tractor."

Immediate impact

The implement package from Bobcat included an auger with a 12-inch bit, a tiller and a box blade. Representatives from Atlas Bobcat delivered the tractor and implements to the Shepherd residence, whereupon Shepherd quickly put the tractor and tiller implement to use. He prepared the ground and applied mulch for future plantings last fall. In areas where new trees were ready to plant, he used the auger implement to drill a hole. "I drove the tractor down the row that I tilled, dug holes, drove forward and dug another one," he says. "Believe me, it was a lot better than what I had been doing with a shovel."

Several Bobcat compact tractor features immediately stood out to Shepherd, including power steering. "The Bobcat tractor turns on a dime and it's easier to steer than my wife's Oldsmobile," he says. "It's very sophisticated and a pleasure to use. I think if anyone has driven an older tractor, they would be surprised what this tractor will do."

Another important characteristic of the Bobcat tractor is the hydrostatic transmission, especially for his wife who does not operate machinery on a regular basis. "It's so much easier not to worry about changing gears when you're driving, you just press the pedal and go," Shepherd says. "If you want to go in reverse, you push the lever backwards and you're in reverse — there's less movement and it's more efficient, I think."

A third benefit of the new tractor is the ease of operating rear implements such as the auger. "I don't have to get off of the tractor to use the auger, I can stay in the driver's station and use the auger without any special tools," he says. "Even an urban planner like me can do it."

The timing couldn't have been better for John Shepherd when he was selected as the Great Bobcat Tractor Pull contest grand prize winner last year. Now he can get more work done in less time and continue expanding his orchard, even while he keeps his full-time employment. Shepherd expects to expand the orchard with new trees in the coming years, something that will be much easier with his new Bobcat tractor and implements.

Visit the contest page to see a complete list of the contest winners, see their pictures and read excerpts from their entries.