WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa -- Traveling past Williamsburg on Interstate 80, you may have noticed the Tanger Outlet Center, and just west of there a manufacturing plant with some unusual yard art.
Kinze Manufacturing has a tractor and huge planter mounted on it’s nose, standing upright, and stacks of life-sized grain carts on its signs. The planter bar turns horizontal to vertical every 15 minutes.
The company is known for its planter bars, which, for the first time, helped farmers fold up wide planters for quick transport down the road. The firms also makes the huge grain carts that can haul as many as 1,500 bushels in one trip.
Now, Kinze has opened the Kinze Innovation Center as a part of the company’s 30-acre manufacturing and office complex in Iowa County. The center tells the story of a Ladora area welder, Jon Kinzenbaw, who at 21 years of age in 1965 opened his own welding shop with a small loan and a few dollars of his own money. He would listen to farmers talk about their issues on the farm and invented or customized equipment to help address their issues.
“Back in 1965 in Ladora, Iowa, just a bit north of here, he basically listened to what farmers wanted and came to the market with solutions and innovations that have changed the agriculture industry,” said Justin Render of the Kinze Marketing Department.
For one neighbor, Kinzenbaw built a self-propelled manure loader, as opposed to commercial ones, mounted on a tractor. He was also able to customize larger engines into tractors for neighbors when they needed more power and even built one tractor.
“Take two V-8 engines and put them together, one driving the front one driving in the back, was inducted in 1974 at the Farm Progress Show to pull a 12 bottom plow,” said Render.
His big breakthrough invention in the 70s was a planter that could be quickly folded for transport.
“In 1975, John came up with this rear folding planter, so a lot of the older style planters, it was larger, you have to put them on a trailer,” said Render. “That’s when you could actually go from planting position, actually folded down to transport down the road.”
Now the company has developed a new tillage tool and is also working on technology to enable a tractor to unload a combine while moving in the field without a driver.
The Kinze Innovation Center is open at the plant from 9-5 Monday through Friday, and there is no admission charge.