Article: Farming + Flying = Big Business

  • de Havilland Tiger Moth, CF-CKP, in flight somewhere over rural Manitoba

    November, 1947, Aircraft & Airport

    The flying Somervilles of Manitoba find their three aircraft an important part of the mechanization of their 8,300-acre holdings – air travel answer to supervision problems “on the road.”

    Farming is “big business” in Canada, and as such demands the advantages of flying and air travel to make its operation fast, efficient and profitable.

    If you don’t think the aircraft is a farm implement just as necessary to the “big business” farmer as was Old Dobbin to the early settler, let’s take a look at the Somerville brothers who do a bit of farming near the town of Hartney in Manitoba.

    First of all it might be well to point out the Somerville holdings comprise some 13 sections, not much more than 8,300 acres, spread around the Hartney, Killarney, Elgin and Crystal City district in southwestern Manitoba. In addition, the brothers do a bit of contract harvesting for Kansas farmers, adding their bit to the building of international good will.

    Of course to successfully farm the Somerville spread, a bit of mechanization is necessary, and that’s where the aircraft come in. The equipment used includes: three aircraft, fire crash tender, snowplane, ten tractors, nine combines, a dozen trucks and the usual complementary farm implements.

    To Build a Hangar

    Add to this a 30,000 bushel grain elevator at a nearby siding and a similar structure on the farm, and then consider the projected hangar and machine shop necessary to service all the equipment, and you have a fair picture of the Somerville set-up. In addition, a dormitory for 30 hired hands is to be built.

    All this, of course, did not come overnight. William Somerville, the grandfather, came from Ireland in 1884 and homesteaded on the original farm. His son took over in 1910, built the present main house, and in 1937 turned over the farm to the boys.

    In that decade since 1937, the folks around Hartney have seen what enterprise and application can do to farming. They admit the Somerville boys have some “new fangled ideas”, but they’ll also admit they are good farmers – “the best in the district.”

    It was in 1937 that the Somerville farm became the scene of night operations as, when weather permitted, night shifts continued working under floodlights to get an amazing amount of work done – profitably.

    When holdings became so spread and supervision by surface became almost impossible, the Somerville brothers took to the air. They bought their first aircraft last fall, when Hartley, who is 35, purchased a Tiger Moth.

    Hartley, who admits he has always had “a yen for flying”, took lessons from the Winnipeg Flying Club, and soloed in six hours. He flew back to the farm with his Tiger on skis, and found flying as applied to farming was a profitable and pleasant pastime.

    The Tiger came to grief this year when the tailwheel caught in a fence on a take-off while Hartley was on a combine buying trip through the province, but has been replaced by another aircraft.

    Bought Third Plane

    The third plane was bought in Kansas this year when Hartley, finding his combines scattered throughout the state as much as 60 miles apart, turned to air travel for effective supervision. At the moment, Hartley is the flying brother of the two, but Walter, who is 31, is going to add flying to his accomplishments as soon as he gets a few free hours when the harvest is in.

    The trip to Kansas this year (with seven combines and a dozen trucks) took four days for the 1,200 miles, but Hartley, with his new plane, was home in considerably less time than it took for his convoy to cover a fraction of the journey, convincing all hands of the advantage of air travel.

    de Havilland Tiger Moth, CF-CKP, in flight somewhere over rural Manitoba

    This article originally appeared in the November, 1947 edition of Aircraft & Airport magazine.

Leave a Reply

* Name, Email, and Comment are Required