Last week Mazambane and I had a very educational visit to Pioneer Equipment in Dalton, Ohio. Daniel Wengerd and his family were very gracious to host us for several days. The Pioneer Equipment Company is very impressive. I was amazed to see so much production going on in a factory that focuses on horse drawn farm equipment. The machinery at the factory was really fun to watch. There was a robotic welder, an automated wheel rolling machine, and many work stations for shearing, bending, punching, and drilling heavy steel parts. Pioneer Equipment
manufactures everything from small weeding tools and harrows, to huge rollers, wagons, and engine powered fore-carts. We took along some of the equipment we have been working on and had Joni and Larry, the research and development team at Pioneer, look over our work. We got some good suggestions for trying a different angle on our cultivator sweeps. Larry and Joni liked our seeder with the vertical plate, and they showed us a prototype of a seeder they have been working on. Looking at the welding production line at Pioneer gave us some good ideas for how to set up jigs for mass producing parts for our own equipment.
On Wednesday, Daniel introduced us to Doug and Lydell from Ventrac, a company in Orrville, Ohio that makes small tractors. Lydell recently worked in Nicaragua, and is now developing a small tractor he hopes will be useful on small to medium sized farms around the world. We were able to visit Ventrac on Thursday and see the
“TILMOR” tractor Lydell has been working on. It is very promising in its simplicity. Lydell had quite a few models of single row seeders and planters they have been checking out, and he loaned us a Jang planter to take back to Tillers. Mazambane and I put some corn seeds into it and tried it out Friday morning when we got back. We found that it worked fairly well, but like our own model it sometimes misses a seed.
In addition to visiting the factory, we had a chance to watch the Pioneer “Homesteader” in action. The Homesteader is a riding tool manufactured at Pioneer that has a variety of attachments including a plow, harrow, over-the-row weeder, disc, and potato digger. Daniel hooked up a team one evening and dug up several rows of potatoes from his own garden. After we collected the potatoes, Mazambane had a chance to drive the team on the Homesteader with the disc and later with the harrow attachments. Another highlight of the trip was visiting a neighbor’s orchard seeing apples being pressed, and trying some fresh apple cider. We are very thankful that Pioneer Equipment and the Wengerd Family took the time to show us their company and their community.
Postscript (by Ryan): Dave thinks it’s a great idea if we (Tillers) could get a homesteader over to our bases of operations in East Africa. That would be great, but perhaps a better idea would be to get some of our K2 Rippers and Toolbars over there first. Tillers is a 501c(3) non-profit and is always welcoming financial support that would allow our currents projects to have a larger impact. Please contact us if you would like to support this specific project.