Willie Cade’s grandfather, Theo, an engineer at John Deere, helped invent the manure spreader. His grandson thinks John Deere’s efforts to kill right to repair legislation is what stinks.
My grandfather, Theo Brown, a legendary John Deere engineer, pioneered and patented the manure spreader in 1915 … but what John Deere is spreading these days really stinks.
If my grandfather saw how John Deere was undermining farmers’ rights to repair their equipment, well, I think he’d remind the people at Deere’s headquarters in Moline, Illinois, of the values that built that company from the start: dedication to the customer.
Deere’s focus was on customers
Theo spent most of his career as a fiercely loyal John Deere employee. For 30 years he served as a member of Deere’s board. He loved inventing the new technology of his day that helped people and made their lives easier, and safer. He loved John Deere for its commitment to those values. They were building better lives together, solving problems for America.
An avid diarist, Theo’s journals detail his travels all over the country as he visited his inventions in the field to better understand how people used John Deere products. He wanted to design products that would facilitate safer and easier operations, not impose costly delays or contribute to more farming accidents. That closeness to the customer and his dedication inspired many additional patents.
My grandfather had 158 patents…These days, John Deere requires its customers jump through hoops to repair their equipment causing needless delays and extra expense.– Willie Cade, Founder of Electronics Reuse Conference
My grandfather had 158 patents — 31 of which are on the manure spreader. Those patents helped build John Deere’s success. But these days, John Deere requires its customers jump through hoops to repair their equipment causing needless delays and extra expense.
Because cutting edge software and hardware are combined in today’s equipment, special software is needed even for repairs. Deere and other manufacturers justify this bad behavior in the name of copyright and safety.
From helping customers to taxing them
In reality, they are needlessly taxing their customers. Because of software locks and other barriers to repair, farmers must have an authorized John Deere technician do repairs at considerably higher cost and hassle. It undermines what my grandfather was all about.
Some companies refuse to sell replacement parts. Others use software to lock out independent repairers. That limits who can fix things. Farmers who can’t repair farm equipment and a wide spectrum of Americans who can’t repair their smartphones are pushing back in states across the country.
In my home state of Illinois, the Illinois Hospital Association, Illinois PIRG, and Repair.org are working to pass legislation that would liberate our stuff and empower consumers by guaranteeing access to parts, tools, manuals and diagnostic software. Illinois is just one of many states considering Right to Repair legislation.
Repair and reuse
I know, firsthand, how these reforms can help.
I first got involved in the repair business 25 years ago. My friend needed a computer at home but couldn’t afford one. I was sitting on the board of a nonprofit that helped underprivileged high school students and suggested that we take discarded computers repair them and provide them to students who needed them. So, I built a business that took these unwanted computers, and helped talented students who needed them but couldn’t afford the high costs.
It should not be impossible or illegal for people to fix what they own. People should be allowed to decide how to spend their own money– Willie Cade, Founder, Electronics Reuse Conference
When you buy something, you should be able to repair it. Like my grandfather, I believe helping people get the most out of the things they own and rely on is a calling. Thousands of businesses across the country do just that.
It should not be impossible or illegal for people to fix what they own. People should be allowed to decide how to spend their own money
We should give every consumer and every small business access to the parts, tools, and service information they need to repair products, so we can keep things in use and reduce waste.
Why wouldn’t we? Letting people fix the stuff they own improves their lives and reduces waste. According to Illinois PIRG, we dispose of 15,300 cell phones every day in Illinois.
Thrift and efficiency were the values my grandfather and the John Deere of his generation embraced. It’s time John Deere returned to those core values.