‘Arturo’ the Tractor in Place for Thousands of Young Riders

Written By: Steven Knudsen
Published: January 1, 2014

Like a story from the pages of a children’s novel, a once prized tractor – long retired – has gained new life thanks to a little ingenuity from Sonoma County Farm Bureau Board Member Norm Yenni.

In November, the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County put out an ask to the agriculture community, they were in need of a 1940’s retired antique tractor to be a special feature in “Mary’s Garden,” a 36,000 square foot outdoor nature education and agriculture exhibit at the museum, located on West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa.

Fortunately, Yenni owner of Sears Point Farming Co. and Sonoma County Farm Bureau Member for over 33 years had just what the Children’s Museum wanted. In 1969, his father, Glenn Yenni, gave him a 1944 two-ton rubber tired John Deere Model-A tractor to start his 4-H field crops project.

“My dad gave me the tractor because he wanted me to be a farmer… I guess it worked,” said Yenni. “For sentimental reasons, I don’t want to see it taken to the scrap yard and I’ve been wondering if I would ever have time to fix it up properly.”

The trusty tractor had around 30,000 hours on it when Yenni parked it in the barn in hopes of someday pulling it apart, shinning it up and driving it as a show piece of agricultural Americana. According to Yenni, when the opportunity came to donate to the Children’s Museum it just seemed like the perfect place for the tractor that he called “Arturo.”

The donation of the tractor was paired with a $1,000 cash donation from Sonoma County Farm Bureau to establish a decorative column at the entrance of the garden and a permanent place for a Farm Bureau sign.

“We hope that the donation of the tractor will provide more farmland educational experiences for children,” said Sonoma County Farm Bureau President Tito Sasaki. “It’s not every day that kids get to sit on a tractor.”

The tractor was the first piece to go into place and will be followed by a Farmers’ Market stand with simulated fruits and vegetables, raised beds with edible landscaping and a windmill that will simulate wind energy powering a water pump.

“We are excited to have the support of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and are thankful for the tractor donation from Norm,” said Collette Michaud, founder and CEO. “Not only will children delight in playing on the tractor in Mary’s Garden, but the community will benefit from this partnership.”

The Children’s Museum plans to remove the metal dishpan style seat and replace it with a child safe platform that will allow the kids to drive the tractor through miles and miles of make-believe rows of Sonoma County Agriculture Commodities.

“Although the 2-cylinder ‘Johnny Popper’ engine has turned its last turn, it makes me feel good to have donated ‘Arturo’ to the Children’s Museum,” said Yenni. “The next 100,000 miles that the tractor drives will go a long way to proving agriculture education to a future generation.”

The Children’s Museum was launched in 2010 when Jean Schulz leased the Museum two buildings totaling 8,000 square feet of interior space on a 4.2-acre property adjacent to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. Schulz, a note philanthropist, leased the property to the Children’s Museum for 30 years at a significantly reduced rate. This particular location, within walking distance of many low-income neighborhoods, enables the Children’s Museum to provide meaningful experiences to children most in need of this resource.

Through generous support from individuals, businesses and foundations, over $7.2 million dollars have been raised, bringing the campaign over 86% toward the campaign goal. The Museum can close the gap on the campaign and open the doors to wonder with continued local community support

The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County is expected to partially open in March of 2014 with a grand opening in the Summer of 2014. The Museum envisions a compassionate and vibrant environment that supports the creative potential of children of all backgrounds – especially those ages ten and under.

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