Machinery Chatter
Russ Quinn DTN Staff Reporter

Wednesday 04/16/14

Looking Into The Past For The Future of Farm Machinery

When I was a kid, I would tag along with my dad just about everywhere.

From the feed store to seed dealer to everywhere in between, I was usually with him when he conducted official farm business. Sometimes my two younger sisters would come along with us, but a lot of time it was just me and him.

Among the places we would go to would be customer appreciation events for our local farm equipment dealership. It just happened to be a John Deere dealer, so it was the yearly John Deere Day.

For one day a year, your local John Deere equipment dealership (in my case Bunz Implement in Bennington, Neb.) would turn into a community gathering place for food, fellowship and fun.

I would imagine back in the late 1970s through the 1990s when many JD dealerships still tended to be family-owned, the range of John Deere Day events varied greatly. I can remember gatherings at the dealership both in the evening complete with a dinner and dance in the shop and also in the afternoon with a lunch and no dance.

The dinner/dances were especially fun for us kids. We were free to wander all over the building, something we were not allowed to do the other 364 days a year. Most of the time we would go into the area by the parts counter and play with the farm toys that were for sale.

For farm kids, that was like spending time in farm toy heaven. Looking back, I would have thought most of the farm toys would have been in boxes, so I don't know how much fun we had playing with boxes. But maybe the fun was just imagining "carpet farming" with ALL of these wonderful toy implements.

Some things don't change, I guess, except now I do the same thing with the machinery outside the building. And things are way more expensive.

The other fun thing was playing with kids we didn't really know. The only confusing thing would be when someone would yell a kid's last name and usually ten kids would turn around. The local towns tended to have many relatives present at these things. If my sisters and my twin cousins would have been present, there would have five Quinn kids there.

As I got a little older, the best part of the day would have been the film highlighting the new offerings Deere would have that particular year. Usually in the films they would look back at older equipment, discuss the current equipment offerings and even look into the future of farm equipment.

What I remember about this part of the films was when they would talk about driverless/robotic tractors. I was mesmerized by the ideas that tractors and combines would someday be able to operate without a driver. Wow!

However, not all the farmers in the room shared my excitement. "Someday they are not even going to need us!" was what was said usually after this part of the film.

Now, roughly 30 years later, part of the film is coming at least partially true.

I know some of those farmers who complained about being replaced by "the robots" all those years ago are now using auto steer in their tractors today. Kind of ironic, huh?

In the not too distant future it could mean true driverless tractors operating in the field. Kinze has been working for several years on a system which would operate tractors without drivers in both planting and grain cart situations.

I get to write about these advances for (hopefully) many years to come. How lucky am I?

Everything changes, which is especially true in agriculture. Little Bunz Implement moved buildings and is now part of a larger company, which owns many dealerships in a couple states. The big city grew outwards and the area I was raised in is now more suburb than rural.

Despite all of this, I would still love to take my kids to one of these events. I haven't been to a John Deere Day in many years. I don't even know if they exist anymore.

I would like for my kids to run and play and be with the other farm kids. But I also would want them to sit, watch the film and see what is in store for them in the future.

Posted at 10:55AM CDT 04/16/14 by Russ Quinn
Comments (2)
Russ, in my area of west central Minnesota, there continues to be a John Deere day, but with the consolidation of dealers, my local store 16 miles away is part of at least a 9-location ownership arrangement. Thus, the John Deere day is located in a town 42 miles away, to be more centrally located for the 9 locations. Thus, I don't get there every year. It is held in a hockey area, and there are lots of machines available to climb into in weather-controlled comfort. One room of that arena is designated for the JD movie, which runs several times over the two or three day exhibit. Of course, free noon lunch is part of the attraction.
Posted by Unknown at 6:11PM CDT 04/16/14
I kind of wondered if maybe some of these multiple location machinery dealerships have a combined John Deere Day at one location in the middle of their territories. Considering the company who now owns our old dealership has 15 locations spread across two states (NE & KS), the mid-point could be many miles to the south and west of where we call home. I don't really know if they have a one location John Deere Day, I suppose I should find out. Thanks for the comments, Unknown!
Posted by Russ Quinn at 2:31PM CDT 04/17/14
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