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WHS agriculture class gives tractor a facelift

Submitted photo Dale Martin sits on the John Deere 630 tractor that Worthington High School agriculture students painted during their final quarter this spring. The class includes Lauren LeBrun (from left), Shay Von Holtum, Chelsey Harberts, Kari Suby, TJ Boltjes, Whitney Prins, Bradley Jansma, Curtis Gaul, Jordan Honken and Jaysen Cherry.

WORTHINGTON -- For the past 11 years, students enrolled in Worthington High School's Agriculture 12 class have spent the better part of their final quarter of school repainting an old tractor and making it look "good as new."

Their latest project was a John Deere 630 with a three-point hitch and plow. The tractor belongs to Jon Weitgenant, who has furnished the tractor in seven out of the 11 years since the program began. In fact, the program was Weitgenant's idea.

"I've been on advisory committees with the FFA, and on the ag advisory committee with (Worthington Community College)," Weitgenant said. "Somewhere along the line we were talking about projects. I had my first John Deere then -- a 730."

Paul Karelis was the agriculture instructor back then and gave support to the program. It continued through Jeff Rogers' tenure at the high school and now Deb Martin is the lead ag teacher overseeing the tractor painting program.

In exchange for having the high school seniors paint the tractor, the owner gives a donation to the WHS agriculture department and also pays for the supplies.

"It is fun to work with young people and support their opportunity to learn," Weitgenant said. Seven out of the 11 years the students have painted a John Deere tractor from his collection. Other years, they've worked on Internationals or Fords.

As is the case with some collector tractors, the John Deere 630 repainted this year comes with a story. It was once owned by Gerrit Teerink and his four sons, Ron, Norman, Robert and Merlin, spent many hours working with the tractor on their farm north of Worthington.

After Weitgenant purchased it, it was put on the waiting list for the restoration work. Weitgenant said he has at least three more tractors, and he knows of someone else with two tractors, needing paint -- enough to keep the WHS Ag 12 students supplied with a tractor to paint for the next five years.

Since the students only have nine weeks to complete the paint work, Weitgenant utilizes equipment offered by Mike and Steve Bousema to power wash the tractor to remove much of the paint and grease before it arrives at the school.

"We took an alcohol wipe and wiped off all the dirt and chipped paint as much as we could," said Bradley Jansma, a member of the Ag 12 class, of the first week they spent on the John Deere. Students had just one and a half hours each day -- the length of their class -- to work on the tractor.

"By the end of the third week, Dale (Martin) had paint guns in our hands," Jansma added. They started with the tractor, and then worked their way to the hitch and the plow.

Dale Martin, father-in-law to teacher Deb Martin, has helped with the tractor painting project as a teacher's aide of sorts for the past four years. He taught the students about the different parts of the tractor and the techniques of using a paint gun.

"It was a real eye-opener for some of us, really," Jansma said. "Overall, the hands-on work and the experience from it was pretty amazing. Just that Jon, Mrs. Martin and Dale let us get that experience, it was pretty great.

"Dale always said the more time you stick into a piece of equipment, the better it will look," said Jansma.

There were 10 students in the class, including five females.

"The girls make it look a little extra special -- they did some extra detail work," Weitgenant added.

The public will have a chance to view the tractor at the Fourth of July celebration at Pioneer Village, and it will be driven by the Ag 12 class through the King Turkey Day parade in mid-September as part of the Prairie Reapers contingent.

Weitgenant will also use the tractor to participate in tractor rides with the Northwest Iowa Two-Cylinder Club, which is based in Spencer, Iowa, and display it at the Clay County Fair in Spencer this September.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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