December 16, 2017

Tractor Fever: 5 Things Drive Cassie Degner

There’s just something about old iron. Just ask Cassie Degner, who answers with one word when you ask about her favorite tractors—Case.

“I love Case tractors because they are unique and are a family tradition,” said Degner, a MaxYield Cooperative grain accounting assistant. “Restoring tractors isn’t just a hobby—it’s more like an obsession.”

While people may not take Degner seriously at first, they quickly learn she knows her stuff when she starts “talking tractor.” Here are five things you may not know about Degner:

  1. She’s country. Degner was born and raised in northeast Kansas in the country near Perry. When Degner was 12 years old, her grandfather found a 1951 Case D tractor in a grove in western Kansas when he was pheasant hunting. “The basics of it were pretty good, although we had to get fenders from another tractor,” said Degner, who got hooked on restoring classic tractors.
  2. Agriculture brought Degner to Iowa. After Degner earned her feed science and management degree from Kansas State University in 2009, she accepted a job with Murphy Brown (now Smithfield Hog Production). She joined MaxYield in November 2012, first as a client care leader at Hobarton and later as a grain originator. After MaxYield’s relationship with Murphy Brown concluded in January 2015, Degner moved to MaxYield’s corporate office in West Bend as a grain accounting assistant. For the past two years, she has also handled accounting for Enogen® MaxYield acts as a liaison between Syngenta and ethanol plants, feed mills and other buyers that purchase Enogen corn. “We work with Enogen growers in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin to get this corn to end users,” said Degner, who dispatches trucks and manages approximately 7 million bushels of Enogen a year. “I like the variety in my job.” Degner also appreciates the family environment at MaxYield. “It’s a good work-life balance.”
  3. Case tractors get Degner’s engines running. With her love of agriculture comes Degner’s passion for tractors. “When we get a new tractor, we try to restore it back to its original condition,” she said. This includes the 1944 Case VAC tractor that Degner’s great-grandfather, Charles Hannah, purchased new. “We had to give it new paint and typical maintenance,” said Degner, whose family handles nearly all the restoration work themselves. As she has worked on more tractors, Degner has learned a lot from her grandpa, Dennis Knudsen. She also studies vintage owners’ manuals, books and online resources. Once a tractor is restored, the Degners put it to use, from pulling a drag to groom the driveway to pulling floats in parades to powering stationary equipment at farm shows. “We don’t restore these tractors just to let them sit,” Degner said.
  4. Tractor restoration is a family affair. Degner and her husband, Travis, a feed truck driver, recently purchased two more vintage Case tractors, including a 1945 Case VAI from Rolfe and a 1947 Case VAC from Breda. The VAI, an industrial version with a wide front end, was designed for construction and road maintenance. The VAC is a row-crop tractor. “It’s fun to collect tractors, but we can’t buy any more until we fix up the ones we’ve got,” said Degner, whose family has nearly a dozen Case tractors.
  5. Maintaining tradition is important. Degner and her family love the Meriden Antique Engine and Threshing Show in Meriden, Kansas. “I practically grew up there, and it’s our absolute favorite show,” said Degner, whose family’s tractors power the stationary baling at the shows. Other events also offer glimpses into rural America’s past, from old-fashioned lumber milling to corn shelling. “Our kids love to see how things used to be,” said Degner, who has a 12-year-old stepdaughter, Sophie, and 7-year-old son, Walker. “It’s important to appreciate our heritage.”

Editor’s note: In addition to restoring vintage Case tractors, Degner enjoys vegetable and flower gardening at her family’s home south of Lone Rock. Her crops include large, juicy Beefmaster tomatoes, which she shares with her MaxYield team members.

 

 

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