Past Preserver

Hank Dermer is one of 15 directors for the Gravely Tractor Club of America (GTCOA). The group is passionate about Gravely tractors and their attachments, and many of its members restore and preserve vintage models. The group publishes the Gravely Gazette, a quarterly magazine, and hosts an annual Gravely Mow-In, an event where Gravely lovers come to show off their machines, swap parts and talk shop.
A vintage Gravely riding tractor.Dermer is retired and resides in rural Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. In the quiet countryside, he keeps himself busy communicating with fellow GTCOA members, restoring Gravely riding tractors and equipment, and conducting behind-the-scenes club work. 

Out Working caught up with Dermer to learn more about the GTCOA and its activities, as well as to explore what makes Dermer a Gravely superfan. 

OW: How did your relationship with Gravely tractors begin? 

HD: At a young age, I learned to appreciate well-built equipment. My father and grandfather worked for manufacturing companies — I don’t have blood in my veins, I have oil in them! I’d been familiar with 

the Gravely brand for many years. I purchased my first tractor in 1976, a Gravely 816, and realized Gravely’s commitment to quality. I knew a Gravely machine was meant to be rebuilt, not thrown out. I fell in love with the Gravely name! 

Most recently, I owned an equipment rental company. It was a great business with great people. I retired in 2011. I was driving one day and saw a Gravely 12G tractor on the side of the road. I knew I had to restore it. During this process, I found the GTCOA, which met only an hour from where I lived. I went to my first meeting and met a lot of great people. I joined the club and have been volunteering with it ever since. 

OW: What is the GTCOA’s purpose? 

HD: The GTCOA is a volunteer club for members to discuss Gravely, its history and the operation of Gravely tractors and their attachments. It was founded in 1996 by Craig Seabrook and his “sidekick” Fred Kuntz. They were very passionate about tractors. They figured if there were clubs that existed for alternate hobbies and interests, why not start one for Gravely enthusiasts? One thing led to another and the GTCOA was born. 
Hank Dermer works on his vintage Gravely.
Most club members restore and work on Gravely equipment as a hobby. We joke about the “Gravely widows,” because these women don’t see their husbands. They’re off in the garage refurbishing a Gravely!  

Members really care about each other, and we’re a family. People are constantly going out of their way to help the next person who needs it. The glue that holds us together is the Gravely tractor. 

OW: Can you describe your involvement in the GTCOA since joining and your role today? 

HD: Since becoming a member in 2011, I’ve held several roles, including vice president for three years and president for four. My priority has always been to work with teams to improve the club and ensure member satisfaction. I used to love reaching out and calling someone who was disappointed and ending the phone call with them feeling fulfilled. That was fun! 

Today, I’m one of 15 directors of the club. I am always chatting with members about anything Gravely related. This year, I’m helping organize our annual 2023 club Mow-In, an event where all the members get together to show their Gravelys and host a swap meet. And of course, I’m repairing Gravely four-wheel riding tractors. Currently restoring my 50th tractor! 

OW: Who are the members of the GTCOA? What do they get out of being in the club? 

HD: There are about 900 – 1,000 members in the club each year. We have people spread across the country and even a few international members. Most of our members are much older because Gravely is a brand name with a lot of heritage. People join because they had a grandfather who owned a Gravely, they found one in a barn and were curious about its mechanics, or they simply have a large yard and like to mow with a Gravely. Anyone is welcome to join! The only requirements are a love for equipment and an awareness of Gravely.

Members gather for the annual GTCOA Mow-In event.Membership grants you a Gravely Gazette magazine four times a year, a space to attend our annual Mow-In, and most importantly, camaraderie and friends for life. The Mow-In is a national convention to celebrate the purpose of the club. We select a site to display dozens of Gravely parts and tractors, and there are a bunch of contests and games. We start planning a year in advance because it’s so much work! 

OW: What is your favorite memory with the GTCOA? 

HD: Without a doubt, the 2016 Mow-In. It was the largest turnout we’ve ever had, and the 100th anniversary of Gravely. Most importantly, it fostered the relationship between AriensCo and the GTCOA. Ever since then, AriensCo has participated at every Mow-In. 

AriensCo Chairman and CEO Dan Ariens stopped by with a few other AriensCo employees and AriensCo Museum staff. He saw two, 40 by 80-foot tents full of Gravely tractors, and another field full of Gravely equipment. He never realized how much Gravely meant to us. Since then, AriensCo personnel and the AriensCo Museum team have been at every Mow-In. They come and present at every show, host a cookout and hang out. That’s family! 
Dan Ariens bonds with Craig Seabrook, the founder of the GTCOA.OW: What is the Gravely Gazette and what does it mean for club members? 

HD: The Gravely Gazette is a quarterly newsletter that informs, entertains and promotes a sense of community among the club. John Damtoft, our current editor, oversees the entire newsletter. You’ll find technical information and support for tractors, history, technology tips, current events, etc. There are tear-jerking stories as well, and it highlights the glue that holds us together. 

All club members receive a Gazette. Because many aren’t capable or don’t have the time to get super involved, they rely on the Gazette. It’s a treasured piece of mail for these people, and they read every single word!  
Showing off vintage Gravelys at the 2017 Mow-In.

OW: What does the future hold for GTCOA? 

HD: The plan is to continue growing and to recruit younger members to keep the club's name alive. We don’t have much of an online presence, but we have plans for a new website to spread club awareness. It will include over 1,000 Gravely documents for people to see, such as sales brochures, owner’s manuals, Gravely tractor stories and more. 

We’re also working on “Mentoring the Co-coordinators," a program that will make it easier to recruit members to run a Mow-In event. We’ve started the program to help alleviate the workload for the next person in charge since there is a different Mow-In leader every year. We want it to be an honor, not a burden!


06/01/2023 | Past Preserver

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