Making History

In the year 2093, a group of FFA members will unearth a time capsule. What will they find?

A 75-year anniversary is a significant milestone, whether it’s commemorating a birth, marriage, or business relationship. To commemorate their 75-year partnership with the National FFA Organization, John Deere turned to past and present FFA members to create a time capsule reflecting the occasion.

Through a social media campaign, the company encouraged FFA members and alumni to donate or suggest items for the time capsule representing the past, present, and future of FFA, John Deere, and the agriculture industry.

“Our goal was to identify items of personal significance.” - Neil Dahlstrom, manager, corporate archives and history at John Deere

“Our goal was to identify items of personal significance,” said Neil Dahlstrom, manager, corporate archives and history at John Deere. “We’ve never done a time capsule quite like this before, so we didn’t know what to expect,” he added.

“We were looking for a fun way to engage with FFA members as we celebrate our 75th anniversary,” said Betsy Flaherty, senior brand manager. “We couldn’t have been happier with the response,” she added.  After receiving about 150 items, Flaherty says, a team set to work choosing the final 75 items.

Each item is unique. Some are more informational, for example, a collection of John Deere product brochures. Some are iconic, like an FFA jacket. Then there are the items that 75 years from now, will be considered “historical,” including, a modern-day tractor seat and steering wheel, and a sample of U.S. currency.

Collecting items for the time capsule was just one part of this 75th anniversary project.

The next step was to turn an artist rendering into a real-life time capsule. That’s when Deere’s brand team turned to Brandon Cherry, an engineering supervisor at the company’s Global Crop Harvesting Product Development Center in Silvis, Illinois.

“This was not only a great opportunity to give back to FFA, but to highlight the awesome skills of some people on my team,” noted Cherry. Utilizing engineering design software, Cherry says, allowed him to “bring the rendering to life.” He then reached out to engineer Ean Bush to create drawings and the two worked with local Deere suppliers to source the parts. Engineering Technician Bryan Bunge then went to work welding the 31 pieces together. The result is a 424-pound steel container, about the size of a 55-gallon trash can.

Cherry estimates it took about a month from conception to complete product, including downtime waiting on parts and reviews. And while none of the build team were FFA members, they were fans by the end of the project. “It makes me proud of our support of FFA and it’s an even better feeling seeing the pride and willingness of everyone to step in and help make this time capsule real,” he said.

The time capsule and its contents will be formally revealed and presented to the National FFA Organization on October 24, during its annual national convention and expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. It will later be buried on the grounds of National FFA Organization headquarters in Indianapolis, in hopes that it will be unearthed and opened 75 years from now, in 2093.

After 75 years underground, some of the time capsule’s contents will be recognizable, while others will not, according to Dahlstrom. “I imagine the conversations around each item will be wonderful. Hopefully it creates dialogue about how the world and farm practices have evolved, and in the process, enriches a new generation’s understanding of agriculture.”

Time Capsule Travels to National FFA Organization

The time capsule – on display during the Indianapolis convention with the 75 items that would go inside it – was officially transferred from Deere to the National FFA organization at a news conference that also celebrated the two groups’ longstanding partnership with its 75th anniversary of working together.

Sam Allen and Mark Poeschel with the time capsule at the 2018 National FFA Convention.

“Deere’s contributions have helped our students achieve our mission, allowed us to grow leaders and allowed our leaders to achieve personal growth, and lead to career success” said Mark Poeschel, FFA’s chief executive officer.

Sam Allen, Deere’s chairman and CEO, also marked the anniversary by announcing the company’s $75,000 donation to FFA’s “Living to Serve” program. “The Living to Serve Platform inspires FFA members to put leadership into action through service activities and prepare them to be responsible leaders in agriculture and many other professionals in the future” said Allen.

“We are proud to support this organization whose mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing global population,” Allen said. “And, that fits quite nicely with our higher purpose – a commitment to those linked to the land. We won’t fulfill that purpose without a diverse and innovative set of leaders and that’s the exact type of person that FFA develops.”

“We are proud to support this organization [FFA] whose mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing global population. And, that fits quite nicely with our higher purpose – a commitment to those linked to the land." - Sam Allen, John Deere’s chairman and CEO

Poeschl said FFA will “hang on to the time capsule safe-keeping. The time capsule will be put into a very special holding place that will capture 75 years of memories,” he added.

Bryant Mays, Delphi’s FFA president, acknowledged John Deere’s 75 years of continuous sponsorship. “Thanks to your generous sponsorship, FFA members across the country have had an opportunity to experience premier leadership, personal growth, and career success as a result of the programs offered through National FFA. As we go into the next century we know we are the future of agriculture,” Mays said.

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Making History

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