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Early interest in tractors and machinery fuels career ambitions

Nathan GrellAn affinity for John Deere tractors at his grandparents’ farm fueled Nathan Grell’s inquisitive childhood and interest in agricultural machinery, maintenance and repair.

“When I was growing up, I really enjoyed working on my grandparents’ 1949 John Deere B tractor and its two-cylinder engine,” Grell said, who is graduating in May from the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) John Deere TECH program at the Calmar campus.

The John Deere B introduced new features that were innovative in the late 1940s, such as the Roll-O-Matic, an option on narrow-front tractors that created a smoother ride for farmers in the field, especially when plowing or operating on rocky terrain. Working on the old equipment helped to develop a “know-how, can-do” spirit for Grell, who is formerly of Ida Grove and currently lives in Calumet. Entering the NICC program made perfect sense.

“I was always interested in how these tractors and engines worked and became interested in restoring old equipment. That’s what really got me interested in this type of work,” Grell explained. “The hands-on experience in the John Deere TECH program at NICC is the biggest reason that drew me to this school. We study the John Deere products in class and then spend time working on them in the labs.”

John Deere TECH instructors also add their own insights and experiences in class that puts lessons into context, Grell said. “The instructors in the program use stories to help us relate to everything we’re learning. That helps students remember things.”

Grell’s skills and knowledge of John Deere equipment gained recognition this spring at the Postsecondary Agricultural Students Conference state and national competitions. He and his team member, Nate Vos, of Spillville, took first place honors in the state and earned a twelfth place finish nationally from March 12-15 in the Agriculture Machinery Service Technician Award (AMSTA) competition.

The AMSTA contest events included a written test, measuring and testing, identification, five diagnostic stations and four calibration and adjustment stations. The state and national conferences bring people with similar interests together, both with NICC peers and competitors from other colleges, he said.

“At the conferences, it’s great because everyone all likes the same things. We’re all really interested in John Deere equipment and farming.”

The John Deere TECH program is designed to upgrade the technical competence and professional level of an incoming John Deere dealership technician and is supported by John Deere Company. Grell is currently a service technician for ICON Ag & Turf in Paulina and has a secure job with the company after graduation.

In addition to John Deere TECH, NICC offers a variety of agriculture and natural resources academic programs at the Calmar campus, including Associate of Science degrees in Agriculture, Animal Science, Companion Animal Science, Dairy Science and Pre-Veterinary Medicine. The College also offers Associate of Applied Science programs in Agriculture Business, Agriculture Production, Beef Science Technology, Dairy Science Technology, Enology, Viticulture and Large Animal Veterinary Technician. In addition to these associate’s degrees, NICC offers many agriculture certificate and diploma options.

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