“I had just discovered E-bay about three months before I started collecting farm signs. I knew just enough about electronic trading to be dangerous. The first one I bid on I got. That sign, an original John Deere sign is so rare that only one or two still exist.

“When I got the sign, I just leaned it up against the wall — afraid to open it, because I just knew I had been taken on E-bay.

“The sign, which now adorns one of the main walls in the museum, was in pristine condition. Last year one of the remaining signs like my first E-bay purchase sold for five times what I paid for this one, Hula says.

Every item in the museum has a story. If you can catch Hula there, it’s worth many times the $10 admission fee to hear his stories.

One of the rarest tractors in his collection is a D John Deere, which has turner brakes and a power take off, which makes it collectible.

Probably the most prized of his tractor collection, Hula says, is a BF Avery tractor that was made just before the company was purchased by Minneapolis-Moline. Its original color is what makes it more valuable.

One unique thing about the Avery tractors is how they were marketed. The tractors were only made in 1937 and 1938 — about 4,000 engines were made. They were made for and sold by Sears and Roebuck. “You picked out the tractor you wanted in a Sears and Roebuck catalogue, ordered it, and it was delivered to the nearest train station,” Hula says.

“I bought the BF Avery tractor, and after I bought it, the owner told me he had sold it too cheap. He said, if you’re a man of honor you’ll take your money back and give me the tractor. I said, if you are man of honor you’ll let me have it. He did, and here it sits,” says Hula

Renwood Farms is a history lesson within itself. Started in 1939 and located just off Highway 5, the road on which many of Virginia’s historic plantations sit, the farm is filled with a rich and colorful history.

David and Johnny Hula, who run the farm — mostly they say — continue to stack up national yield awards. This past fall, David Hula won the 2010 National Corn Growers yield award in the irrigated no-till, strip-till category with a yield of 368.44 bushels per acre — the highest overall yield in the national competition.

Visiting the museum, which is not far off I-64, between Richmond and Williamsburg, Va. is a treat in itself. Finding one of the Hulas with time to talk provides some valuable insights on farming past and present.

rroberson@farmpress.com