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Gathering of the Green brings JD fans together
Illinois Correspondent

MOLINE, Ill. — March 8-11 was the fourth Gathering of the Green. The event was in Moline and brought together collectors that love John Deere.

Hosted by the Deer Valley Collectors, Illinois Valley Two-Cylinder Club, North Eastern Illinois Two-Cylinder Club and Northwest Illinois Two-Cylinder Club, the event offered an array of activities for JD fans.

The theme for this year’s show was Harvest in the Heartland. The brochure for this event outlined why, “The vast, deep fertile prairies of Middle America and Canada are the most productive farm lands in the world, and the ability of farmers to produce abundant harvests led this expansive region to become known as he bread basket of North America. So when we began discussing the 2006 conference, it was a perfect fit as a theme that inspired us to expand the focus to include workshops and activities related to implements as well as the venerable two-cylinder and new generation tractors.”

Exhibits at the Holiday Inn - where the event was hosted - reflected these themes offering insight into farming in the past. Along with the great displays, collectors had the chance to seek a bit more knowledge through the workshops that related to topics like agricultural machinery lubricants, John Deere wrenches or the anatomy of a John Deere machine. For those wanting to see the sites tours were available of the John Deere factories in the Quad Cities, Dubuque and Waterloo.

Tours of the Charles Deere Wiman Home and Butterworth Mansion were also offered as well as one on the Lavender Crest Winery.

Enthusiasts looking for JD items shopped in the vendor areas where 60-plus vendors were set up. Shoppers could purchase new, old and NOS and reproduction parts, services, signs, decals, books, manuals, works of art or pick up memorabilia.

In the parking lot of the Holiday Inn visitors could even enjoy looking at a few tractors, inside, vendors offered toys for sale and models created by talented craftsmen.

One of the craftsmen in the vendor area was Bruce Jensen, who hails from Manchester, Minn. An account executive for Jensales, Jensen had an array of items for sale, but what stopped many in their tracks was his model of two-John Deere 630s hooked together. Farming techniques that Jensen had seen performed out west in the 1950s inspired this farm model.

“Farmers out in Western Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Kansas used to hook together two tractors before the large four-wheel-drive tractors were built,” he said.

Jensen added that this offered a way for farmers to pull three plows at one time providing maximum work with minimum effort. The original idea of hooking up the two 630s into a toy model came from a request.

“We got a call from a gentleman,” he said. “He wanted two John Deere 630s coupled together. I looked for the parts and fit them together.”

The end result was the model that Jensales had available at Gathering of the Green. Created from two Precision tractors the coupled model sold for $850.

Questions about the model can be directed to Jensen at 800-443-0625 or by e-mail at

Another toy maker at the show was Paul Stephan of Stephan Manufacturing from Beloit, Wis. Stephan had several John Deere models on display and many for sale. He is a former pattern maker who started out making a model of a JD 830 when he decided the toys on the market were not detailed enough to suit him. After locating a John Deere 830 tractor, the measuring began.

“I made a scale drawing of the John Deere 830,” Stephan said. “Next, I built a wooden model and created the mold. The mold was then used to reproduce the metal model.”

This was the first of several limited models he created. For Stephan the joy of this hobby is working in his shop. A quiet man, he leaves the selling aspect of the business to his wife, Mary Jane.

“I leave most of the socializing to Mary Jane,” he added.

With stiff competition in the toy world, Stephan is not making new tractor and plow models because of the quality of the Precision toys and the low prices of the toys built overseas.

“It is hard to compete,” he said.

Although he is not making new toy models, that doesn’t mean that he has hung up his development skills. Instead, Stephan has chosen a new venture. They just unveiled the John Deere Patio Bell at the Lafayette, Ind. Toy Show.

This bell has a powdercoat finish, stainless steel fasteners and an 8-inch diameter bell. The bell costs $195. For more information about the bell and other products made by Stephan Manufacturing, write them at P.O. Box 1271, Beloit, WI 53512.

Bob and Phyllis Johnson were also set up at the Gathering of the Green with a informational display titled the Picker Research Library. Phyllis came up with the display idea of exhibiting Bob’s literature in a suitcase that closes up when the day is done. Bob said other vendors were calling him “The Bag Man.”

Bob, who is interested in pickers, would like to write a book about them.

I’ve been trying to get farmers to talk about their experiences,” he said. “I want to write a book on corn pickers.

There were also artists at the show such as Charles Freitag from Marion, Iowa, who has created prints that appear on what is referred to as Freitag memorabilia. Also Bob Facklam, whose business is aptly titled, Recreating the past. He creates pen-and-ink drawings reminiscent of farming of yesteryear.

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.