KENYON -- When Owen Scheffler was in sixth grade, his grandmother showed him a 1957 John Deere 620 tractor and told him if he ever wanted to restore a tractor, he could have that one.

It took a few years, but now, Scheffler is a senior in advanced mechanics at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School, and he took her up on the offer.

“It was the first tractor my grandma ever bought,” Scheffler said. “She bought it from a neighbor just before she got married. It has a narrow front, so you can put a corn picker on it. That’s what they used it for, which explains a lot of the dents and scratches it has.”

Owen Scheffler, a senior at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School, restored this 1957 John Deere tractor as his final project in advanced mechanics. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler
Owen Scheffler, a senior at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School, restored this 1957 John Deere tractor as his final project in advanced mechanics. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler

Scheffler brought the tractor into the shop at K-W High School at the end of last school year. He wanted to see what work needed to be done, so he could tackle the big project his senior year.

“It is a two-cylinder John Deere and it was in rough shape,” Scheffler said. “I started tinkering with it to see what I could do. I made a list of the things I needed to work on.”

He got the engine running, which was easier than he expected. Then he started taking off parts and cleaning them. He learned that oven cleaner would take off all the grease and dirt, so he has used that to clean every part.

“I built my own paint booth, and I’ve been painting it in school,” Scheffler said. “I have all the green done on the tractor body. I am working on painting the yellow on the rims and hubs right now.”

Scheffler built a paint booth and had all the green paint on and was very close to finishing the project when the coronavirus closed K-W High School. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler
Scheffler built a paint booth and had all the green paint on and was very close to finishing the project when the coronavirus closed K-W High School. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler

The project was cruising along nicely until the coronavirus pandemic closed the school and shut down the shop. Scheffler hopes that he will be able to finish it as soon as he can, and if the Minnesota State Fair happens, he plans to show it there.

Chuck Larson, vocational agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, said, “Owen is one of the hardest working young men I have had the pleasure of advising. He is always busy with projects and has excelled in the Kenyon-Wanamingo Ag. Department and our FFA Chapter.”

The tractor project also caught the attention of Matt Ryan, K-W High School principal, who said, “Owen has been committed throughout the year to this big undertaking. I’m excited to see the tractor when he has it completed. Owen certainly has a bright future ahead of him.”

When Owen Scheffler went to pick up the tractor, he said it was in “rough shape.” It had been sitting in this spot for 15 years. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler
When Owen Scheffler went to pick up the tractor, he said it was in “rough shape.” It had been sitting in this spot for 15 years. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler

With the school and the shop closed, Scheffler is putting his skills to good use working around his family farm.

“I’ve done more things around here in the past three weeks than I have in the whole school year,” he said. I’ve taken some things that were falling apart and made them bulletproof. They needed fixing, and now they are practically brand new.”

Scheffler has been involved in many activities throughout high school. He worked with the robotics team and helped design and manufacture the robot.

“I do the designing to make sure that it functions properly,” he said. “There are other people that do the programming and wiring.”

He has been involved in FFA and 4-H and especially enjoys dairy judging. He has been on teams that competed in national competitions and last year, he qualified to travel to Scotland, England, and Ireland for judging.

Owen Scheffler, foreground, participates in the Minnesota 4-H dairy judging contest. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler
Owen Scheffler, foreground, participates in the Minnesota 4-H dairy judging contest. Photo courtesy of Owen Scheffler

Scheffler plans to attend South Dakota State University next fall to major in agricultural systems technology and minor in agriculture business.

“My dream career would be equipment testing,” Scheffler said. “I love monkeying around with new stuff. In agricultural systems technology, you are not the engineer, but you are the guy that they tell to go break it. They want you to tell them what is good about it and what is bad about it, and what is not necessary, so they can improve it.”