Macy Janssen_Model B_John Deere_Tractor

Macy Janssen: Award-winning Teen Tractor Restorer

Teenager, Macy Janssen completely restored a John Deere Model B Tractor as part of her FFA project.

Macy Janssen_restoring_tractor

Future Farmers of America Project

Macy Janssen works on restoring her tractor as part of her Future Farmers of America project when she was just 14.

Macy Janssen, 16, is something of a celebrity, at least in some tractor restoration circles.

The junior at Waverly – Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa, restored a Model B tractor as her Future Farmers of America (FFA) project when she was just 14. The Model B is on display at the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo, Iowa through September, 2016.

“Kids at my school, my family, they send me pictures they find online of me with my tractor, and tag me on Facebook, and say, “Oh my gosh, it’s Macy Janssen from Shell Rock, Iowa!” Janssen said. “I can take anyone I want to the museum, so I take my grandma.”

The Janssen family has a small farm with just under 20 acres of grass and hay and a few breeding heifers to show. The idea to restore a tractor came after Janssen saw tractors that FFA and 4-H members completed at a local country fair in 2013, and she thought it would be good for her FFA Supported Agriculture Equipment (SAE) Project.  Then she heard about the Titan Tire program, which provides kids with the correct tire for their completed tractor restoration, and the project was a lock.

John Deere_Model B_Tractor

Before the Restoration

This family photo shows the Model B tractor just after she purchased it for $800 from a farmer in Hawkeye, Iowa.

Her Tractor Search Begins

She started looking for a suitable tractor for the project. Janssen found the Model B on a tractor and farm equipment page for sale in Hawkeye, Iowa, for $1,200. She showed it to her dad, Trent Janssen, who works at the John Deere Product Engineering Center in Waterloo, Iowa, building 350 Series and 6.8L and 4.5L test engines.

“He said ‘Do you want to look at it?’ and I said, ‘Yes!’” Janssen recalled. “A man named Tim Bodley was selling the tractor, and when he found out about my project, he said he’d sell it to me for just $800 if I kept him updated on its progress.”

Bodley bought the Model B from a man whose family owned and used it for generations, but it had been sitting unused. Bodley bought it and got it to run, but when the starter went out, he was ready to sell.

“The thing that interested me was that Titan Tire would help out with tires for kids who restored tractors, and I thought that was great. I used to be in FFA, and I thought if people like that are willing to help out and do their part, I can do that, too.’”

Macy Janssen, 14 was a junior at Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa when she began her tractor restoration project.

Let the Tractor Restoration Begin

The Janssens brought it home, and started working on it immediately. Macy Janssen knew little about tractors beyond how to operate one.

“My dad works on newer tractors, but not tractors from 1948!” Janssen said. “I was completely lost. Dad taught me some basic things and got me up to speed. I learned a lot.”

They tore it down to the frame, and took the engine and the transmission apart. Russ Akers, a co-worker of Trent Janssen’s who does body work on cars, agreed to sandblast the tractor and some parts, and paint the chassis. Macy and her dad sandblasted some smaller parts, then primed and painted them.

They spent many nights and weekends in the family’s garage, working a total of 195 hours to complete the tractor. Within six months, Janssen was able to start it up and drive it, one of her favorite moments of the restoration.

“It was super cool. Later, kids in my FFA chapter asked, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said I was restoring a Model B tractor, and they said, ‘A girl can’t do that!’ I kind of wanted to prove them wrong.”

Now Janssen proudly displays her tractor at shows and fairs around Iowa. It received a blue ribbon at the 2014 Butler County Fair, Best in Show for Non-Livestock at the 2014 Iowa State Fair, and the John Deere Power Systems Manager’s Choice Award at the Product Engineering Center Tractor Show in 2014, which is Janssen’s favorite award.

...they said, 'A girl can’t do that!' I kind of wanted to prove them wrong.” —Macy Janssen

“Dad and I are sitting on a hill, eating our lunch, when some people came by talking about who won, and we heard them say it was my tractor, and we were like “Oh my gosh, it’s ours!” Janssen recalled.

At the State Fair there were very few girls who restored tractors, and more than a few doubters.

“Out of over 60 kids who restored tractors, maybe five of them were girls. All of us at least got ribbons, some got other awards, and we kind of showed the boys up,” Janssen said. “Sometimes people didn’t believe me. They’d ask a lot of questions about what I did on different parts of the tractor, so when I could answer them confidently, they said, ‘I guess you did do it.’”

The Model “B” will be on display at the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum through September 2016. After the museum, she wants to keep the tractor in the family.

“My dad doesn’t consider it his anymore. He said, ‘It’s yours, keep it in the family and show it to your kids.’”

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Macy Janssen: Award-winning Teen Tractor Restorer

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