Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ford Photographic Farm

A 1964 Rochester Clarion photo of promotional photography being done at the Ford Photographic Farm on the former Ferry-Morse Seed Farm property.
If you're watching closely, you've seen glimpses of downtown Rochester in the background of some recent automobile commercials on television, and Michigan's film program has brought a number of location shoots to our area over the past few years.  But if you think using Rochester as a film backdrop is a new development, think again!

In May 1963,  Ford Tractor & Implement Operations leased 717 acres of the former Ferry-Morse Seed Farm lying east of Rochester Road and south of Hamlin from then-owner Howard L. McGregor.  The property was, at that time, a real working farm that was part of McGregor's Great Oaks Stock Farm holdings.  Ford Tractor was looking for property within a reasonable distance from its Birmingham offices on which to shoot photographs of its equipment in authentic farm situations, and the former Ferry property was the best candidate because of its size.

Loyce Snyder of Rochester was the supervisor of the photographic section of Ford Tractor's advertising and sales promotion department, which operated the Ford Photographic Farm.  Photos taken at the farm were used in sales brochures and national print advertising campaigns, but the company also shot about a dozen motion pictures at the site each year. Some backdrop shots were also taken in and around the village of Rochester.  These films were used for sales training or product demonstration purposes nationwide.
A 1964 national ad campaign for Ford used downtown Rochester looking north from Third Street as a background. The town was not identified in the ad, but everybody from the "Heart of the Hills" recognized their hometown.

Few people knew much about what was happening at the Ford Photographic Farm because it was not open to visitors, but examples of its work can be found in vintage Ford Tractor ads.  Tractor lovers, if you've got any 1960s-era promotional literature stored away, be sure to look for glimpses of the Rochester area in the photo backgrounds. You may see something you recognize!


  1. My grandfather worked for Mr. McGregor when Ford started this and then hired on with them and ran the farm. it was a fully functional grain farm and they used it not only for the pictures but to test the competitors' latest tractors and equipment as well their own. My grandpa was in a lot of farm magazines over the years. There were two or three other guys who worked with grandpa and "the shop" as they used to call it was a room under the barn that held most of the equipment. This barn was the only one left standing and was eventually named the Boots and Saddles Riding Club. They lived in a big white house facing Rochester Rd. and my grandmother would wait with me for the bus when I went to Hamlin Elementary as the driveway came out directly facing the wall of Bordine's Nursery on Hamlin. There was a small garden next to the barn near the house and we sold sweet corn from a card table on Rochester Rd. for 50 cents/dozen. Had a great cherry and apple orchard in front of the house. That farm filled the entire area bordered by Rochester, Hamlin, John R and Auburn Rds. There was only one house on that side of Hamlin and my grandparents, mother and uncle lived in it while still working for Mr. McGregor. It was a great house as we had the opportunity to live in it for a few years before the farm was sold and developed. They tore it down and Regency Dr. sites right over it. The farm was sold about 1972 and the photographic farm moved to the Cherry Hill farm in Ypsilanti on Gotfredson Rd. where grandpa ran it until he retired in 1987. When they first moved there, there was a small, old barn still standing and my grandmother told me it used to house Henry Ford's fire truck when he had one there. Grandpa and grandma moved back to Rochester and into his parent's old house on Norton Lawn when he retired and later built a house on the empty lot next door where they both lived until they passed. My mother still tells stories about when grandpa worked the Ferry Seed Farm and traveled on the trains w/ McGregor's cattle to the different shows around the country. She remembers all this stuff like she was just there last weekend and it's been over 40 yrs. since they left Rochester.

  2. I lived on the seed farm, I remember playing on the tractors when I was little boy,my dad was the farm vet,bill pype,the house I lived in is still there, it's the club house for golf course, what a great place to grow up