Terry Tackett was a farmer at heart who worked in the city.
An insurance man with a love for the land where he grew up.
He’d drive east from Lincoln to those 260 acres in Iowa nearly every weekend, said his widow Sharon.
She’d go, too, and work at his side or spend time with her mom in nearby Tabor.
For 13 years, Terry and Sharon planted pumpkins and watermelon on the acres where he and his three siblings were raised, donating the surplus to the local volunteer fire and rescue department.
Terry maintained the edges of the crop fields, too, so he could get in a few more rows of corn or beans, Sharon says.
And he drove an old tractor when he did it, like the one he had as a boy.
For years, his career had kept the couple moving, but in 2000 they landed in Lincoln — an hour from the farm — and before long, Terry went in search of equipment.
He was pleased as could be when they found the Farmall 460, a dream from his childhood days.
Every fall, their daughter and son-in-law and three grandkids would come down from Minneapolis. They’d hitch a trailer to the tractor and ride with Grandpa and Grandma to harvest Halloween pumpkins and roast hot dogs over a bonfire.
On Feb. 16, 2014, Terry had a fatal heart attack on the farm where he was born.
He was 65.
Of all the tools he’d acquired for his weekend trade — the disc, the plow, the water wagon, the sprayer — parting with his two tractors was the hardest, Sharon says.
Finally, she decided to let them go.
She explains her decision in a letter to Tractors for Africa, an all-volunteer organization in Minneapolis.
The nonprofit that eventually ended up with one of those tractors, that Farmall 460. They repaired it and repainted it with the help of Nate and Kevin at Reviva — a company that answered Sharon’s Craigslist ad — and have plans to ship it across the ocean to Burkina Faso.
She wrote: Terry and I could not have imagined (that) a tractor like he grew up using in the family farm in mid-America, Iowa, would become more than his weekend hobby tractor …
She wrote about her gratitude and the comfort she took in its new purpose.
The group plans to include her message in its newsletter, a way to share the stories of the tractors it acquires and encourage others to give, too.
“It’s really kind of warmed my heart knowing that Terry’s tractor can help so many people,” Sharon says. “It’s a wonderful organization.”
But when she was first contacted by the out-of-state buyer, she was leery. Terry’s tractor, so far away?
Then she learned more: How the small farms in the south-central African country were worked with hand tools, taking entire families days to do what machinery could accomplish in hours.
The more she learned about the nonprofit and its people, the more right it seemed.
“It’s just something that seems meant to be.”
Terry’s tractor was a perfect fit for Tractors For Africa, too, said Louis Ricard, one of its three founders.
It was old, from a smaller, simpler era of farm equipment. It was a diesel. Its engine was in the 50- to 70-horsepower range.
“That’s probably going to be a lawnmower in Nebraska,” he said. “The type of tractor that once had a purpose but no longer.”
Tractors For Africa was founded by three current and former Cargill employees, one of whom had a connection to a farming co-op in Burkina Faso.
When a farmer from the co-op visited Minnesota, they hatched a plan to ship a tractor. And the nonprofit was born.
It’s small but getting bigger, Ricard said. Shipping just four tractors in its first 18 months, with plans to send eight more in the coming year.
They see the results: Yields in the fields that have used the donated tractors have increased 190 percent, he said.
The tractors allow women to leave the fields and deal with health and nutritional needs; they allow children to focus on their education.
“As we get that message through it amplifies the willingness to give,” Ricard said.
A few weeks ago, Tractors For Africa invited Sharon to a fundraising party to show off its latest tractor, a shiny-red Farmall 460. They set up poster boards displaying its restoration progress and took a picture of Sharon in the driver’s seat.
Their first tractor with a love story behind it, Ricard said.