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Still Running: Visiting John Deere Horicon Works

Iconic. When was the last time you didn’t hear the buzzword spouted in a commercial for something from the worlds of automotive, fashion or interior design?

Eric Yang

Iconic. When was the last time you didn’t hear the buzzword spouted in a commercial for something from the worlds of automotive, fashion or interior design? The terminology of agricultural equipment and lawn care is an entirely different story. Well, mostly. A certain Deere & Company, founded in 1837 and known colloquially as John Deere, is a rare exception. They’ve earned the status.


In case you missed our film on the Lamborghini Aventador, we’ve worked with the good folks at Canon to help capture some of GP’s latest experiences. The small form factor of the Canon DSLR was a boon while we traversed the stunning facilities of John Deere’s Horicon Works factory. When we capture situations like these — where we prefer a less “rigid” handheld tone — a steady yet agile and responsive setup is a must. As a rule, we prefer our rigs as light as possible, but challenging lighting conditions (e.g. a factory) can make for ambitious shooting, especially under a limited time frame. Here the Canon EOS 5D Mark III ($3,499), with its expansive ISO range, paired with the lightning-fast Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 ($1,479) lens proved to be a top-notch rig.

We filled out our kit with the Manfrotto Fluid Head & Monopod ($315), a DSPTCH Camera Sling ($46) and the Singh-Ray Variable ND Filter ($390)to create a lightweight rig capable of capturing constantly varied lighting conditions.

The company’s trademark yellow and green is unmistakable, easily identified even in communities where tractors, cultivators and lawn mowers appear about as often as a total solar eclipse. George Clooney and Ashton Kutcher (and many, many other celebrities) have been spotted wearing their hats. The question is, why?

Recently we paid a visit to Horicon, Wisconsin, to tour the birthplace of John Deere’s most approachable products. For over 100 years, the Horicon Works factory has been a staple of the town’s local economy, the lifeblood of roughly 4,000 residents there employed to produce the company’s lawn tractors and Gator utility vehicles. In Horicon, finding a single soul who doesn’t take pride in the quality of John Deere is like locating a single patch of lawn not religiously mowed by the company. John Deere needs every inch of yard they can. They need it to test their products, you see.

Our day on the factory floor offered plenty of insight on the manufacturing of today’s premium lawn tractors: the seas of pivoting, undulating machines, lots of hard-working folks and always (always) hanging forests of air hoses and rivet guns. But it wasn’t just the sights. The factory as a whole — the spirit of the place, the ethic, the pride, gave us a deeper understanding of why the company has expanded beyond the confines of the farms, yards and work sites of its customers. In a world obsessed with outsourcing, price cutting and fattening the bottom line, the Horicon factory proves that creating dependable and innovative products doesn’t require a degree in rocket science. Just an investment in people.

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