The folks at Deere showed me a ton of stuff during my day at their facilities. I got a behind-the-scenes tour of their foundry, where they don't typically take visitors. We didn't get the scheduling perfect, but we did get to see some large vats of molten steel get poured into molds to make various engine and drivetrain parts for John Deere tractors. Since it was February, it was probably the best time of year to see it. A glass of water sitting around in that environment in July can reach 128 degrees, according to the thermometer one staffer put in it. The staff stays well-hydrated as a result.
Unfortunately, Deere does not allow photos to be taken in the plant, so I don't have any supporting evidence from my appearance. We will use some stock photos from a previous appearance or two I've made there. They're supposed to be sending me a video of my presentation, because they had cameras there to shoot it for future use. Don't hold your breath waiting for a YouTube posting of it.
As they were putting the mic on me, one of the technicians said, "You've been on camera before, haven't you? This seems like no big deal to you."
We missed the anniversary by two days, but I explained to him my experience with TV cameras and microphones (from a TV station literally a few blocks away.) Fifteen years ago, on February 24th, I got wired up to go into an operating room with cameras to watch me, uh, get wired up, I guess! Getting your head drilled on TV makes this seem fairly reasonable by comparison.
He probably hears that from a lot of farmers.
When we got to the Donald Street Tractor Assembly Facility toward the end of the day, my host dropped me off at the big front doors while he went to park the truck. I walked inside and told the security lady at the front desk that I was the farmer who was there to speak to the staff. My driver had told me we'd be in the auditorium just inside the door. The security lady looked like I'd just told her I enjoy red Jell-O only on Thursdays.
"There's no meeting scheduled," she told me. "Who are you with?"
Two Guys Farming, I said.
You know, I really need to have somebody travel with me to bang a gong every time I say that. Trumpets would be nice, but I'd settle for a gong.
No response from the desk. (Seriously, think what the gong would have done for me!) She did another quick check of her registry. Nope. Turns out, I don't exist.
After a few minutes, my driver showed up and explained what we were doing there. It seems that the person handling our meeting at this facility had forgotten to reserve the room for the meeting and, well, maybe had kind of forgotten to inform the line workers that they could (? should ?) attend. Something about a vacation and maybe being out of the endless paperwork memo loop of planning a meeting.
Looked to me like my day was about to get shorter. And here I had just gotten comfortable giving my presentation!
It didn't take long for them to rustle up an audience. They did not appear to be line workers, but they did appear to be interested, so I gave them my presentation. We probably generated as many questions from this group of about 40 people as we had at the other locations. What probably surprised them more than anything was when I told them that I don't need to have all of my equipment loaded up like an Escalade for a rapper. Leather seats aren't required. It doesn't have to be a huge machine capable of working an entire county in an afternoon. Quite the contrary. It needs to be nimble and it needs to be flexible to do multiple jobs. It can have technology, but don't make it so tough that I need a team of geeks to run it.
Most of all, get all the stuff to fit together without squeaking. My belt and pockets are already full of an insulin pump, cell phone and other stuff. If I need to carry a can of WD-40 with me, there's going to be an issue. I'll end up soaking my business cards and then no one will want one! Where's the fun in that?
Ultimately, I'd like to get another tour of the John Deere facilities when my friend Jill is able to go with me. Bring your mom (my English teacher) along, Jill. She can carry the gong.
Jeff Ryan is Guy No. 2 in the operation of Two Guys Farming, Inc., near Cresco, IA.