John Deere rolled out the metaphorical green carpet this week for a teenage farmer from Minnesota.

Dylan Bakken, an 18-year-old from Breckenridge, Minn. (about an hour south of Fargo, N.D.), has been farming since he was little and owns used Deere farm equipment. His story was told last August by the Fargo TV station WDAY. It was shared on LinkedIn by Deere CEO John May, who invited him to the Quad Cities.

Dylan met Deere CEO John May (who invited him to tour Deere facilities) on Thursday, April 13, 2023.

Dylan (and his parents) spent the day Thursday, April 13 in the Quad Cities, including having lunch at the Moline corporate headquarters with Deere CEO John May and Cory Reed, president of Deere’s Worldwide Agriculture & Turf Division: Production and Precision Ag, Americas and Australia.

In the afternoon, they took a tour of the sprawling John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, with Deere employees and representatives of the Deere dealer RDO Equipment, which has a Breckenridge dealership and covered the Bakken family’s travel expenses (flying from Fargo).

“Dylan is an aspiring young farmer and he made a LinkedIn post that caught the attention of our CEO, John May,” said Miles Musick, factory engineering manager for John Deere Harvester.

“We’re happy to host Dylan and the RDO team, because only 1 percent of the U.S. population are farmers and that population is aging, so we need more Dylans in the world,” Musick said.

Dylan at Deere corporate headquarters in Moline with CEO John May, left, and worldwide ag and turf division president Cory Reed.

Deere has had a 75-year partnership with FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America), he noted. “Deere’s been very interested in cultivating that next generation,” Musick said.

Harvester Works (a 223-acre facility, with 3 million square feet under roof at 1100 13th Ave., East Moline) draws over 10,000 visitors a year, including high school students and FFA members.

“We’ve actually had quite a few international groups that come through,” said Harvester Works spokeswoman Morgan Norberg.

An “overwhelming” visit

Dylan and his family live in Wolverton, Minn. (he’s a senior at Breckenridge High School), and his maternal grandfather was a farmer, just a few miles from where he lives. Dylan harvests corn and alfafa on neighboring farms, including one who is renting him 40 acres.

“I love seeing the crop growing from nothing and seeing all the hard work pay off,” he said Thursday. “I like to be part of that.”

The visitor center at Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, April 13, 2023 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

He bought his first used equipment at 13 (a baler), and owns a 9600 Deere combine. This past year, Dylan bought a Deere 6170R tractor, which pulls his corn planter. Most of his equipment is Deere.

Dylan worked for a snow management company in Fargo, and saved up money when he was younger from working for neighbors.

“I grew up with green — I just prefer that,” he said of Deere, adding he wants to farm full-time after graduating high school in May.

Dylan said he was very surprised to get this invite from Deere, his first visit to the Quad Cities.

Dylan (seen at Harvester Works) bought his first used farm equipment at age 13 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“It was overwhelming,” he said of meeting John May. The highlight of his Harvester tour was getting a famous Gold Key – which new combine customers get (but he didn’t actually get a combine).

“To ride along and see the X9 combine was really cool,” Dylan said of his ride in the new, huge combine. “I probably will never be able to buy anything like that in my lifetime, but it was pretty amazing.”

“It was astronomical,” he said of the tour. He plans to eventually buy his own farmland.

Their daylong visit included seeing the John Deere Pavilion and Store in downtown Moline.

Harvester Works is the only Deere factory that makes the X9 combine, first introduced in 2022, Musick said.

Dylan stands next to the new X9 combine he got to ride in on April 13 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“It’s the capacity and the efficiency of the machine,” he said. “I think the first combine could harvest 20 bushels an hour, and this machine can do up to 7,200 bushels an hour. It really was designed from the ground up with efficiency for the customers.”

Fulfilling farming dreams

Ted Horan, vice president of marketing for RDO Equipment, is impressed by Dylan’s drive and tenacity.

“He has a real desire to be a farmer and to acquire land, and get into the business – which is a crazy, herculean effort for sure,” Horan said this week. “He bleeds John Deere green.”

Dylan (left), his parents and others hear about the combine production process from Kevin Smith (right), a Harvester Works assembler (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“It’s a great example of a young person who has the desire to be in the world of agriculture,” he said. “For us, what got me excited, we’re talking a lot about the future of agriculture and how young people fit into that picture. For Dylan, he’s going to get a front-row seat to the possibilities that exist.”

“For us, this is a great opportunity to showcase the youth in agriculture,” he said.

The dealership was founded 55 years ago by a potato farmer who was 26 years old in Moorhead, Minn. (outside Fargo). RDO has about 70 Deere dealerships (selling construction and farm equipment) in 10 states, and its holding company has a farm and food division as well.

“John Deere is doing an extraordinary job of rolling out the red carpet for him,” Horan said. “He represents the farmers of the future, and the industry.”

Dylan, right, gets into the X9 combine with Harvester Works team leader Chad Kirgan (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Today, farming in many ways is about the equipment they use and the technology,” he said. “Dylan is representative of the challenge, where it’s almost impossible to get into farming today – to buy land and find land, and set up shop as a farmer.”

Traditionally, Deere’s Gold Key visit includes a three-hour-plus tour of the Harvester Works factory, targeted to the period just prior to the combine’s completion. Gold Key customers will be able to start their machine for the first time near the end of the assembly process.

Customers and their guests will be privately escorted by experienced tour guides throughout the factory, according to Deere. The customer will be presented with a Gold Key and certificate at the conclusion of their factory visit.