High Horsepower in the Heartland
Why a small community in Minnesota earned the right to bring the assembly of high-horsepower tractors back to North America.
By Richard Banks | Photos By Jamie Cole
Early in 2012, assembly of Massey Ferguson® high-horsepower row-crop tractors returned to North America. The AGCO Corporation facility in Jackson, Minn.—or more to the point, the workforce there—has earned a reputation for quality workmanship and innovation since this community began making ag equipment in the mid-1960s.
Now, those Jackson employees, who operate one of AGCO’s most successful manufacturing facilities, apply that same work ethic and experience to Massey Ferguson’s 8600 and 7600 Series tractors, as well Challenger’s MT600 Series tractors. What’s their secret? How is it that this small farming community has managed to consistently produce such superior equipment for a half-century?
To find out we spoke with several employees—managers, welders, engineers, folks who work the line. What we discovered was a drive fueled by a pride in their creations, employees eager to learn and try new approaches, and—perhaps above all—a connection to agriculture. In fact, many of the Jackson staff come from farm families or are farmers themselves; they apply lessons they’ve learned working the land to the equipment they help design and produce.
These men and women told us they consider it paramount to build the highest quality equipment, allowing the North American farmer to become all the more efficient and productive. They make equipment that helps producers make a living and make it home in time for the dinner.
Farmers Work Here
John and Andy Peterson lead two lives. They work at AGCO’s Jackson plant, where Andy is a maintenance group leader, tending to many of the plant’s high-tech machines, while brother John is the director of engineering for global electronics.
But those are their day jobs.
When they’re not at the plant, you’ll probably find them farming about 700 acres just north of town. They’re the fifth generation to do so—now growing corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and even sunflowers some years—and the second to work both jobs. Like their father, Sylvan, who worked as a machinist at the plant until he retired about three years ago, they take lessons learned on the farm back to the plant.
“When we turn off the lights,” says John Peterson, “and put our jackets on at the end of the day, we’re going home to get into a piece of equipment or turn on a piece of electronics, like auto steering or a yield monitor. The lessons we learn in that environment, you can’t help but bring them back to work and incorporate them into the product. An understanding to that level, the dirt under your fingernails, I think gains a respect when dealing with customers or dealing with co-workers in the plant. It allows us to make a better piece of equipment.”