by Rod Hisken
Valley Truck and Tractor celebrated their 70th anniversary of business at the Colusa Casino with a Christmas employee dinner on December 1st 2018.
I felt pleased and honored to be a guest and to show a couple of tractors from my collection that seemed appropriate for the occasion.
The business opened in 1948 in Marysville on1st and D in a large two story building which no longer exists. They started with about 8 to 10 employees. The original vision of Henry Miller Sr. of a family owned business that was involved with the community remains in place today. As the logos on John Deere publications point out as important, "The Dream Lives On".
One of the tractors I took was a 1948 Farmall AV that was owned by David Osumi. This tractor has cultivated miles of tomato rows in our Yuba Sutter Basin. It was probably one of the first tractors that Henry sold. It certainly was the first tractor David bought after he and his family returned from their internment experience during World War II. The tractor when acquired was missing parts, no useable tires, and covered with pigeon droppings arose to a thing of beauty today. Such was the spirit of the Osumi Family. The tractor was restored by a young man locally, Lucas Skinner. I met Lucas when he was going to Wheatland High School. He went on and is now working as a engineer for a local farm equipment company. It is fitting that the values of work ethic and innovation are high on the list for John Deere and Valley Truck and Tractor.
The second tractor was a 1946 John Deere Model A that was delivered to the Colusa agency on December 6th, 1946. This A is special to me because at about the 11 o'clock position on the steering wheel there is a thumb imprint from somebody who sat on it for many hours looking over his right shoulder monitoring a piece of equipment. The John Deere A and B entrenched the company as a leader in the tractor market and became classics. They are a great part on our heritage and drew people out of the Casino to hear it run and generated big grins. "Nothing runs like a Deere" is well known around the globe and exemplifies that value of a product is more lasting than price.
Valley Truck and Tractor started as an International Harvester Dealer and became a John Deere Dealer in 1985 by buying out the local dealer, Inland Tractor.
I loaded my tractors and headed home after the celebration and on the long drive home I was asking " Why is it that the only American owned tractor company is still in existence”? Why is it that a local company stays in business for 70 years and grows to about 170 employees and becomes one of the largest dealers in California.
The answers became evident as the miles rolled by. During a presentation by John Miller the CEO of Valley Truck and Tractor, he announced that Colusa Casino and Valley Truck and Tractor had made a joint agreement to make a significant donation for relief in Paradise fire to be managed by the Sierra Central Credit Union, TLK Foundation Campfire Relief where 100 percent of the money goes directly to the victims.
John Deere is in a process consolidating and chooses their dealers with great care. Henry Sr. was a Founder of Peach Tree Country Club, served on the Board of Rideout Hospital, and was active on the Marysville Rotary Club. Donations to local nonprofits are too numerous to mention. That heritage has been carried on by John, his son, who has also served on the Rideout Board, Marysville Rotary, Yuba City Mayor, City Council, and is the past president of the local chapter of the Farwest Equipment Dealers Association.
Henry Jr. still farms almonds on the North side of the Sutter Buttes, and relishes the smell of freshly turned earth and works in an active support role at Valley Truck and Tractor Co.
The little family owned business has grown from a limited space operation on 1st and D in Marysville to owning the agencies in Elk Grove, Robbins, Woodland, Gridley, Dixon, Willows, Chico, Colusa and Yuba City and serves the Sacramento Valley.
One of the things that struck me during the ceremony was the degree that the employees were honored. Three had spent their entire professional lives with the company. Several had worked more than ten years and even the new employees were recognized. I served as an administrator for nearly 30 years and it took too long for me to really trust my co-workers and act in such a manner, however belief in the staff creates a power that goes beyond just work. A tour of their new facility demonstrates a well-equipped multi- media classroom, a current technology ability, the ability to monitor products in the field, a knowledgeable service staff and plans into the future.
Certainly the vision statements of the company of care in dealer selection, strong work ethic, quality, commitment to value, and an eye on innovation exist at Valley Truck and Tractor.
John Deere in the mid 1800’s took that extra step and polished the tines on pitch forks, innovated a steel plow from a saw blade that let the soil slide off, and looked to value in his products. Did he ever imagine his efforts would lead to a worldwide producer of farm and construction products?