Tractors and Cornfields and Country Roads, Oh My!
When I was younger, my dad had a bright green and yellow tractor that was twice my height and could zoom around the backyard with me as it’s eager passenger. Of course, I was three, so things seemed much bigger and much faster then. Today, we visited Waterloo, Iowa and went on the John Deere Factory Tour in order to see how tractors are manufactured. As large as the tractor of my childhood seemed, the ones being made in this facility are simply massive.
When we entered the John Deere building our phones were taken away, so alas there are no photos of the actual process of assembling a tractor. Similar to the Jelly Belly tour experience, we boarded a train to tour their facility. But in this case, fittingly, we were pulled by a tractor around a building that seemed as big if not bigger than the Ford Rouge factory. Fortunately, instead of the sad paper hats at Jelly Belly, we were required to wear safety glasses and audio sets. Our tour guide used a great many terms which are not in my vocabulary to describe the mechanics behind the tractors, different customization options, and the technicalities of farming. The tour train wove between conveyor belts, mechanical arms, cranes, and row upon row of equipment with employees darting in between.
Interestingly, all of the tractors John Deere produces are made to order. They don’t stock up; every single machine being made has someone’s name attached to it, whether it be an individual or a dealer. As a byproduct of that policy, there are seemingly endless choices for customizing the tractors, and our tour guide said that if the factory made a tractor a day for an entire year, they wouldn’t make the same one twice. This was quite different from the sheer magnitude of identical trucks being churned out by the Ford factory on a daily basis.
Another surprise, in addition to leaning they have do not stock unsold inventory, was the level of technological advancement that had reached to be as efficient as possible. The individual tools that their factory employees use are synced via Bluetooth to the computers that dictate each tractors’ design, and if an employee makes an error production is halted. If you’ve ever seen the TV show Black Mirror, I believe we are now living in it.
As you can see, the scale of person to tractor is beyond what any three year old could possibly imagine. They’re gigantic.
222 miles of driving later, we made it to Minneapolis. After almost 4 hours of seeing almost nothing but cornstalks and miles of flat fields, we decided to seek high ground.